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What is a charge of public corruption?

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) considers public corruption to be a top investigative priority -- but what exactly is it? Why is public corruption so important for the federal government to pursue?

Public corruption involves a serious abuse of power or breach of trust by any federal, state or local government employee. It can (and frequently does) involve people in the private sector as well because of the nature of the crime. Public corruption can involve things like:

  • Bribing a public official or accepting a bribe as a public official for any reason
  • Ethical violations, including ignoring conflicts of interest or using public money on personal needs
  • Law enforcement corruption, such as when an officer takes a bribe to overlook drug transactions or when officers participate in a "shakedown" of suspects for cash and drugs
  • Election fraud, such as tampering with a ballot

All of these things can have a significant impact on both the nation's security as a whole and the rights of individuals. It can siphon money away from where it is needed and enrich the wrong people. It can even damage the nation's infrastructure (especially if road contracts or building contracts are involved) and weaken the defenses at the border.

The federal government is very serious about prosecuting public corruption at all levels. For example, 29 people in Florida -- including at least one federal official -- were recently charged with public corruption in a scheme that may have taken $373,000 intended for farmers impacted by drought.

Public corruption charges are often combined with a number of satellite crimes, like tax evasion, theft, bribary and fraud. Therefore, it's important to understand all of the charges against you and how they relate if you're caught up in a federal sweep of suspects. An attorney with experience defending clients facing federal charges can help you understand the charges and help you determine how best to proceed.

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