Criminal conspiracy is a charge that is often added along to other charges, like tax evasion or engaging in a pyramid scheme to defraud other people, when there are co-defendants on trial for the same crime. The prosecution usually theorizes that co-defendants who acted together must have planned their actions together at some point along the way and agreed to work together.
Defending yourself against a conspiracy usually requires an attack on all the elements of the charge.
A conspiracy requires both an agreement and actual intention to commit a crime. The agreement between you doesn't have to be in writing or exist in an email, and seldom does, so your attorney may be able to show the jury that there's no real evidence that you were acting with conspiratorial intent. For example, if you happened to be present when a pyramid scheme was being pitched, that's not direct evidence that you were involved in the scheme or even knew that it was a pyramid scheme. You could easily have been taken in by the same con artist that took in the other victims.
Conspiracy also requires an actual intention to commit a crime. Your attorney may be able to show that even if you overtly agreed to a criminal scheme that you never intended to follow through with it. For example, imagine that your business partner offhandedly says something like, "These taxes are ridiculous. We should find a way to hide our income." If you make a response that agrees with him, assuming that it's a joke and without ever thinking he's serious about doing it, there was no element of intent on your part.
It's important not to neglect this part of your defense strategy because a conspiracy charge can have severe penalties, depending on the underlying crime. In some cases, being convicted of the conspiracy charge alone is enough to send you to jail for a significant amount of time, even if no other actual crime is ever accomplished.
If you've been charged with conspiracy in connection to a white collar crime like tax evasion or a pyramid scheme, you may find the advice and guidance of an attorney very helpful.
Source: FindLaw, "Conspiracy," accessed Dec. 29, 2016