False Statements

18 U.S.C. § 1001 – Statements or Entries Generally

False statement charges under 18 U.S.C. 1001 can be filed against someone when they make a false statement to an agent or agency of the federal government related to a federal issue, such as hearings, inquiries, investigations, and other matters.

Suppose someone attempts to engage in a cover-up or commit fraud through their false statements. In that case, they could be indicted for the federal crime of false statements, which could be verbal or written and don't always have to be made under oath. This statute can apply when someone lies to an FBI agent during an interview.

18 U.S.C. § 1001 - False Statements
Federal false statement charges can be filed when someone makes false or misleading statements.

Further, this statute is a favorite prosecutorial tool to obtain convictions or leverage in an investigation. It often helps investigators get witness cooperation under the threat of potential criminal charges and penalties.

Federal prosecutors frequently use the False Statement Accountability Act to indict or make threats to indict any person that will not cooperate with a government investigation.

Simply put, 18 U.S.C. 1001 false and misleading statements law makes it a felony to knowingly falsify or conceal a material fact in any entry or make statements to government officials that are materially false and misleading in a government investigation or official proceeding.

The “government officials” include federal law enforcement agents, such as the FBI, DEA, IRS, or SEC, and members of the United States Congress. Many know Martha Stewart was convicted under 18 U.S.C. 1001 for lying to the SEC and FBI about insider trading. Let's review this federal law further below.

What Does the Law Say?  

A “false statement” could be a material misrepresentation, omission, or the use of a fraudulent document. The statement must be made knowingly and willfully, meaning there must be intent to deceive the government agent.  Statements that are false but made in good faith are exempt.

Federal Crime of False Statements
A 'false statement" must be made knowingly and willingly with the intent to deceive the government.

18 U.S.C. 1001 statements and entries generally say, “(a) 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;
  • (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….”

Notably, facts errors that are not material, meaning they are not important to the outcome of the proceeding, even if false or covered up, would not typically be prosecuted under this statute. Likewise, minor, unimportant errors would also not qualify for federal prosecution.

Another category under this law is making or using any false writing or document, knowing it contains a materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or entry.  While this is the same type of unlawful conduct discussed above, this deals with words in a written document rather than orally.


Under 18 U.S.C. 1001, the penalty for making false statements is a sentence of up to five years in the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Suppose the false statement was related to domestic terrorism, human trafficking, or some sex crimes. In that case, the sentence will increase to eight years in prison.

What Must a Prosecutor Prove?

To convict you of violating 18 U.S.C. 1001 false statements law, the federal prosecutor with the United States Department of Justice must prove all the elements of the crime, beyond a reasonable doubt, including the following:

  • Your statement was materially false. The statement must tend to influence or is capable of influencing the agent. In other words, a material statement is important and relevant to the issue under discussion. Lying by itself is not illegal.
  • You “knowingly and willingly” made the false statement. It must be proven that the false statement was intentional and that the defendant knew it was unlawful to make a false statement when it was made.
  • The statement was made on a matter within the government's jurisdiction. This element requires the government to prove the false statement was made regarding an issue within their jurisdiction, meaning any area they have the authority to enforce regulations.

In criminal investigations, any fact that could be relevant to finding, charging, or convicting a defendant satisfies the element of being material. It does not matter if the government believes the false statement.

What Are the Related Federal Laws?

18 U.S. Code Chapter 47 Fraud and False Statements has numerous federal laws that are related to 18 U.S.C. 1001 false statements, including the following:

  • 18 U.S.C. 1002 – possession of false papers to defraud the U.S.;
  • 18 U.S.C. 1003 – demands against the United States;
  • 18 U.S.C. 1004 – certification of checks;
  • 18 U.S.C. 1005 – bank entries, reports, and transactions;
  • 18 U.S.C. 1006 – federal credit institution entries and transactions;
  • 18 U.S.C. 1007 – federal deposit insurance corporation transactions;
  • 18 U.S.C. 1010 – department of housing transactions;
  • 18 U.S.C. 1011 – federal land bank mortgage transactions;
  • 18 U.S.C. 1012 – department of urban development transactions;
  • 18 U.S.C. 1013 – farm loan bonds and credit bank debentures;
  • 18 U.S.C. 1014 – loan and credit applications, crop insurance;
  • 18 U.S.C. 1015 – naturalization, citizenship or alien registry;
  • 18 U.S.C. 1016 – an acknowledgment of appearance or oath;
  • 18 U.S.C. 1017 – government seals wrongfully used;
  • 18 U.S.C. 1018 – official certificates or writings;
  • 18 U.S.C. 1019 – certificates by consular officers;
  • 18 U.S.C. 1020 – highway projects;
  • 18 U.S.C. 1021 – title records;
  • 18 U.S.C. 1022 – delivery of a certificate for military property;
  • 18 U.S.C. 1023 – insufficient delivery of money for military service;
  • 18 U.S.C. 1024 – purchase or receipt of military property;
  • 18 U.S.C. 1025 – false pretenses on high seas and waters;
  • 18 U.S.C. 1026 – compromise or cancel of farm indebtedness;
  • 18 U.S.C. 1027 – false statements in relation to documents;
  • 18 U.S.C. 1028 – fraud with ID documents;
  • 18 U.S.C. 1028A – aggravated identity theft;
  • 18 U.S.C. 1029 – credit with access devices;
  • 18 U.S.C. 1030 – fraud connected to computers;
  • 18 U.S.C. 1031 – major fraud against the United States
  • 18 U.S.C. 1032 – concealment of assets from conservator;
  • 18 U.S.C. 1033 – crimes by people engaged in business;
  • 18 U.S.C. 1034 – civil penalties and injunctions for section 1033;
  • 18 U.S.C. 1035 – false statements about healthcare matters;
  • 18 U.S.C. 1036 – entry by false pretenses to any real property;
  • 18 U.S.C. 1037 – fraud related to electronic mail;
  • 18 U.S.C. 1038 – false information and hoaxes;
  • 18 U.S.C. 1039 – fraud related to confidential phone records;
  • 18 U.S.C. 1040 – fraud related to major disaster or emergency benefits.

 What Are the Defenses for 18 U.S.C. 1001?

Suppose you or a family member is under investigation or indicted for violating 18 U.S.C. 1001 false statements. In that case, our federal criminal defense attorneys can use different strategies to obtain the best possible outcome, as discussed below. Perhaps we can argue the following:

  • you did not know the statement was false,
  • it was not material to a federal matter, or
  • it was an illegal interrogation.

Perhaps it was an honest mistake or a misunderstanding. Maybe we can argue that the statement was not material, which is challenging whether a statement has enough importance or is relevant enough to be considered “material” to a federal matter.

Defenses for Federal False Statements
Contact our law firm for legal guidance.

The statements to the federal agents may have been unrelated to the subject of the interview, which means it is not an illegal false statement. Perhaps we can argue that false statements do not fall within government jurisdiction.

Perhaps we can argue that the interrogation was illegal. The Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution protects your right to be silent to avoid making incriminating statements. You have the right to remain silent and a right to counsel.

Suppose you were not advised of your rights and made incriminating statements. In that case, the statements could be ruled inadmissible and not be used against you, but the government will often argue that you voluntarily made the statements.

Perhaps we can negotiate with the federal prosecutor before court proceedings begin to minimize the chances of a criminal filing. If already filed, maybe we can arrange a favorable plea bargain.

If necessary, we can represent you or your loved one in a federal jury trial where the government has to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. We provide legal representation throughout the United States on federal criminal issues.

We offer a free case evaluation. The Hedding Law Firm is located in Los Angeles, California.

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