What To Do When the Feds Come Calling

By James Mackler

It is a harrowing yet increasingly common experience for healthcare providers to find themselves face-to-face with federal investigators. The U.S. Attorney’s office has announced that the investigation of healthcare fraud will continue to be one of its highest priorities. This means that you or your staff could literally have your relaxing evening at home interrupted by a knock on the door from a law enforcement agent. There are two key points to remember should you become the focus of an investigation: First, don’t talk to law enforcement agents without an attorney; second, preserve your documents but don’t alter them.

James Mackler is a member of Bone McAllester Norton’s Criminal Defense and Government Investigations group. He is an experienced criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor at the firm. James has this very simple advice for the moment you are first confronted by an investigator: “Do not talk to anyone until you speak with your own attorney.” Although this advice is very easy to give, it can be difficult to follow. Most law-abiding citizens want to cooperate with the authorities. Moreover, people tend to assume that if they refuse to answer questions, it will look like they have something to hide. This could not be further from the truth. The fact is that investigators and prosecutors respect and, to some extent, admire people who can think clearly enough to assert their right to counsel.

This is not to suggest that you should forever refuse to assist in a law enforcement investigation. The point is you need to make sure that your rights are protected. Even if you are being interviewed as a witness, there is always a chance that, as the investigation develops, a prosecutor might begin to see you as an accomplice. If you have retained counsel, your lawyer may be able to protect you ahead of time from this possibility. Although you have every right to refuse to answer questions, it is a crime to impede an investigation or lie to authorities. An attorney can also help you navigate these treacherous waters.

You may be tempted to start reviewing billing or treatment records to make sure your files are in good order in case they are ever subpoenaed. While it is fine to review your records, be careful to neither create nor destroy documents in response to an inquiry from law enforcement agents. In today’s digital age, nothing ever goes away completely. The best approach is to preserve what you have without making any changes. It is much easier for a good attorney to deal with records that might portray you in a bad light than it is to deal with allegations of evidence tampering or obstruction.

You are also likely to begin trying to figure out what is really behind the questioning. The chances are that you will be given little or no information by the investigating agent. Furthermore, the agent does not have to be truthful or forthcoming with you. You might be a potential witness or, worse, a potential target. The investigation might be civil in nature, or it might be leading toward criminal prosecution. The reality is that these distinctions don’t really matter in terms of your response.

Now if a law enforcement official shows up at your door, you have the perfect reply to the question, “Do you mind answering a few questions?”

With all sincerity, you can say, “I have no problem speaking with you, but my attorney has told me never to answer questions without talking to him first. I will get back in touch with you.”

Bone McAllester Norton Welcomes Former U.S. Attorney, Current Assistant U.S. Attorney and Formation of Criminal Law Practice

Bone McAllester Norton announced today the addition of former U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee, Ed Yarbrough, along with current Assistant U.S. Attorney Alex Little. Together with Bonelaw attorney James Mackler, the trio will form a new practice focusing on criminal defense and governmental investigations.

“We are excited to have two attorneys of such prestige and caliber join our firm,” said Charles W. Bone, founder and chairman of Bone McAllester Norton. “Individually, they are each excellent lawyers. I have admired Ed's service to the community for years and am proud to now have him as a partner. Alex has vast experience that spans the globe. With the addition of Ed and Alex, they will enable us to serve clients facing any type of criminal matter or sensitive investigation and to do so with a level and breadth of experience that is unique in Tennessee.”

Yarbrough and Little will join the firm on Thursday, August 1.

To read more from the Nashville Post, click here.


Bone McAllester Norton PLLC is a full-service law firm with 35 attorneys and offices in Nashville and Sumner County, Tennessee. Our attorneys focus on 17 distinct practice areas, providing the wide range of legal services ordinarily required by established and growing businesses and entrepreneurs. Among our practices, we represent clients in business and capital formation, mergers and acquisitions, securities matters, commercial lending and creditors’ rights, commercial real estate and development, governmental regulatory matters, commercial litigation and dispute resolution, intellectual property strategy and enforcement, entertainment and environmental matters. Our client base reflects the firm’s deep understanding and coverage of today’s leading industry and business segments. For more information, visit www.bonelaw.com.