Federal Crime: 18 USC §1001 – Concealment, False Statements

Under federal law, it is a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison to knowingly and willfully conceal or falsify or cover up a material fact in a federal investigation; or, to make a materially false statement (Michael Flynn prosecution); or, to use or make a fictitious document for the same reason.

To commit an act “knowingly” is to do so with knowledge or awareness of the facts or situation, and not because of mistake, accident or some other innocent reason. And, an act is done “willfully” if done voluntarily and intentionally and with the specific intent to do something the law forbids.

According to the courts, the purpose of 18 U.S.C. § 1001 is to prohibit deceptive practices aimed at frustrating or impeding the legitimate functions of government departments or agencies.

False statements warranting prosecution have to affect either the operation or integrity of the Federal government. They  may be made in at least three ways:

  • directly to a Federal agency, such as an application form for employment or a required form;
  • to a private person or institution which implements federal programs; or,
  • in business records that may be subject to Federal government inspection.

Caveat: Federal interest must exist at the time the false statement is made; it cannot arise after the defendant has made a false statement.


The government must prove that the accused both knowingly and willfully committed the offense. The government must have direct or circumstantial evidence of both of these elements. After all, the accused may have believed the statement was accurate at the time it was made. The government may prove that a false statement was made “knowingly and willfully” by offering evidence that defendants acted deliberately and with the knowledge that the representation was false, and, a jury may conclude from a plan of elaborate lies and half-truths that defendants deliberately conveyed information they knew to be false to the government.

Another common defense is a claim a lack of reasonable relation to the Federal government, lack of Federal jurisdiction. This defense focuses on the language of Section 1001 that requires that the conduct occur “in any matter within the jurisdiction of any department or agency of the United States.”

Another defense is that the Federal interest did not exist at the time the statement was made.

There are various legal and factual defenses that can be raised. Defenses are unique to each accused and his/her unique set of facts. You will need to discuss your case in great detail with your attorney to understand which defenses are applicable to your case.

18 U.S. Code § 1001. Statements or entries generally

(a) Except as otherwise provided in this section, whoever, in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of the Government of the United States, knowingly and willfully

(1) falsifies, conceals, or covers up by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact;

(2) makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation; or

(3) makes or uses any false writing or document knowing the same to contain any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or entry;

shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 5 years or, if the offense involves international or domestic terrorism (as defined in section 2331), imprisoned not more than 8 years, or both. If the matter relates to an offense under chapter 109A, 109B, 110, or 117, or section 1591, then the term of imprisonment imposed under this section shall be not more than 8 years.

(b) Subsection (a) does not apply to a party to a judicial proceeding, or that party’s counsel, for statements, representations, writings or documents submitted by such party or counsel to a judge or magistrate in that proceeding.

(c) With respect to any matter within the jurisdiction of the legislative branch, subsection (a) shall apply only to—

(1) administrative matters, including a claim for payment, a matter related to the procurement of property or services, personnel or employment practices, or support services, or a document required by law, rule, or regulation to be submitted to the Congress or any office or officer within the legislative branch; or

(2) any investigation or review, conducted pursuant to the authority of any committee, subcommittee, commission or office of the Congress, consistent with applicable rules of the House or Senate.

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