Frequently Asked Questions
What if I am harassed or threatened by the defendant?
Intimidating victims and witnesses is against the law. Such intimidation is rare, but if you are harassed or threatened by the defendant or someone acting on his or her behalf, immediately contact the law enforcement official handling your case, the victim/witness coordinator, and the federal prosecutor. If possible, document the harassing or intimidating behavior. For example, make copies of correspondence you received from the defendant, telephone records, etc.
Can the defendant be released from jail before the trial?
In most cases, yes. However, the defendant may have to post a bond (an assurance to the court that he or she will appear as required at all court proceedings). The court may impose other restrictions to ensure the defendant's appearance.
Why is it taking so long for the case to be prosecuted?
Fraud crimes can be extremely difficult to investigate and prosecute because of a number of factors:
Each factor can cause a significant delay in obtaining the evidence needed to make arrests or secure a conviction. Your concerns about delays are understandable, and your patience is appreciated. For more information, contact the victim/witness coordinator or federal prosecutor, who can also tell you about other court delays that may occur once a case is set for a hearing or trial.
What if I can't get time off from work to participate in case proceedings?
If you have to attend a court proceeding, your employer is required by law to let you come. If you have received a subpoena, show it to your employer. If you still have trouble, contact the victim/witness coordinator, who can help explain the situation to your employer.
Am I entitled to witness fees?
Yes. Federal witnesses are paid a standard fee for each day their testimony is required. In addition, witnesses are entitled to reimbursement for parking, mileage, and other travel-related costs as permitted by law. If you have special travel needs or if you have to travel from out of state, contact the victim/witness coordinator for help.
Can I receive notice of court appearances and outcomes at an address other than my home?
Yes. Simply provide the victim/witness coordinator with the address and telephone number (preferably in writing) at which you wish to receive correspondence and personal contacts.
What can I do if my rent or utilities are due and I have no money to pay them?
In many communities, there are agencies--including nonprofit and religious institutions--that provide emergency assistance on an as-needed, case-by-case basis. Usually, funds are limited and offered once only. Contact your victim/witness coordinator or a local victim assistance program to locate such help.
What if I am contacted by someone claiming to be able to help me recover my financial losses?
To recover financial losses due to a federal fraud crime, you must use either the criminal justice or civil justice system. If you are contacted by someone who is not employed by the federal government, report the person immediately to the law enforcement agency that handled your case. If the individual is not a representative of the federal government, he or she may be engaging in an illegitimate practice, especially if you are asked to front a fee for the service. The federal criminal justice system does not sell its services to consumers--they are provided as a matter of law. Likewise, nonprofit consumer protection organizations do not solicit opportunities to assist in the recovery of financial losses or the delivery of services.
Warning! The person offering to help may be a confederate of the criminal who defrauded you in the first place. It is not uncommon for fraud criminals to pass along their list of fraud targets to other fraud criminals--especially victims who have suffered severe financial losses and may be in dire need. These criminals may convincingly claim to be aware of the fraudulent acts because they represent a consumer organization or government agency. Many fraud criminals operate in organizations with names that sound like those of government agencies. If you are contacted, get help from someone you know to be legitimate, like the federal prosecutor, victim/witness coordinator, or case agent.
Are my losses deductible on my state and federal income tax returns?
Usually not. But because tax laws are complicated, consult a qualified tax advisor to find out for sure.
Why are convicted defendants allowed to keep personal or financial assets that could be used to repay victims?
When a person is arrested for a fraud crime, the government makes exhaustive attempts to locate and, when allowed by law, seize the offender's assets. However, some fraud criminals place their money or other assets in offshore accounts, making it hard for the government to get them. Sometimes, fraud criminals hide accounts in other names or give the money to persons who can access the funds without detection. If, during or after conviction, you learn of any changes in the defendant's financial status, report that information to the federal prosecutor who handled the case or to the Financial Litigation Unit housed in the federal prosecutor's office.
Can convicted defendants file for bankruptcy to keep from paying court-ordered restitution or civil judgments?
No. Under federal law, defendants cannot file bankruptcy to discharge their legal obligation to pay court-ordered restitution or civil judgments.
What happens if I die before the full payment of restitution or a civil judgment?
Restitution payments can be paid into your estate. However, your executor must notify the court and provide documentation (such as a copy of a death certificate or will) before such a payment is allowed. Your executor should contact the victim/witness coordinator or the Financial Litigation Unit in the federal prosecutor's office for more information.
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