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Federal Conspiracy Crimes

Federal conspiracy charges are probably the most frequently charged federal crime. Prosecutors bring them across many different kinds of cases – from fraud cases to drug dealing, from white collar crimes to violent crimes. Conspiracy is a broad crime that can encompasses various conduct.

A conspiracy to commit a federal crime happens whenever there is an agreement to commit a specific federal crime between two or more people, and at least one of those people makes some overt act to further the conspiracy.

The government doesn’t have to prove that there was a written agreement between the co-conspirators; instead, the prosecutor can prove a conspiracy just by proving that the people it says were involved in the conspiracy were working together to do some crime.

Pursuant to 18 U.S.C. 371 Conspiracy is codified as

“If two or more persons conspire either to commit any offense against the United States, or to defraud the                        United States, or any agency thereof in any manner or for any purpose, and one or more of such persons do                  any act to effect the object of the conspiracy…”,

18 U.S. C. 846  is its own criminal conspiracy statute which makes it illegal to conspire to manufacture, distribute, or possess with intent to distribute controlled substances.  This is one of the most used and charged crimes in the Southern District of Florida.

Conspiracy always involves two or more people, because a person cannot conspire with himself. Rogers v United States 340 U.S. 367, 434 (1951). Convictions pursuant to 18 U.S.C. 371 requires proof that one of the conspirators committed an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy. U.S. v Wardell 591 F. 3d 1279 (10th Cir. 2009).

It is a separate offense from the crime that is the object of the conspiracy, and the conspiracy ends when either the unlawful act has been committed or when the agreement has been abandoned. The statute that deals primarily with conspiracy is 18 U.S.C. § 371, but there are some statutes that deal with conspiracies for specific unlawful acts, the most common being 18 U.S.C. § 1956(h) (money laundering), and 21 U.S.C. § 846 (controlled substances). Many times, a defendant will be charged with conspiracy along with the actual crime the defendant is accused of committing. Other times, the defendant will be charged with only one count of conspiracy.


A violation of section 371 is punishable by imprisonment for not more than five (5) years and a fine of not more than $250,000.00.

If the offense contemplated is a misdemeanor, the punishment shall not exceed the maximum punishment provided for such misdemeanor.

For more information on Federal Conspiracy charges call Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Attorney David J. Sobel directly at 954-383-3000.