MAIL FRAUD AND WIRE FRAUD
When a scheme to defraud involves the United States mail or transferring funds through the Internet, it can be elevated to the federal level as either mail fraud or wire fraud. A conviction for either of these charges can carry up to 20 years in prison, or 30 years if the violation relates to a presidentially declared major disaster or emergency or affects a financial institution.
The federal offense of mail fraud makes it a crime for the U.S. Postal Service to be used as a vehicle to carry out any fraudulent scheme which attempts to obtain money or valuables unlawfully. This statute is often used as a basis for separate federal prosecution of what would otherwise have been only a violation of state law.
Examples of mail fraud include:
- Corporate crimes, such as embezzlement, theft or money laundering, where a fiduciary employee of a company fraudulently writes a check to him or herself and then mails the check for receipt and deposit. With money laundering, a fraudulent corporation is usually set up to “launder” or clean money derived from illegal activities. How the money is distributed after it is laundered determines how the crime will be charged.
- Telephone marketing schemes, where an organization solicits large sums of money from an individual over the phone, usually to be mailed in installment payments, under the fraudulent guise that the individual has won a cash prize or other tangible reward.
- Non-delivery or misrepresentation of mail-order items, where an individual will order an item, make a payment, and never receive the item or receive something that is defective or otherwise deficient.
- Ponzi schemes or pyramid schemes are where an individual receives a chain letter through the Postal Service which asks them to send money to a list of names before forwarding the letter on to more people. These Ponzi schemes allow the person who started the scam to gain enormous wealth but leaves the people at the bottom of the pyramid with nothing.
Mail fraud is a common white collar criminal offense prosecuted by the courts because there is no specific requirement for the type of fraud or misrepresentation that has been carried out, only that something related to the scheme (such as a check, a contract, or an application for a loan or credit) was sent through the mail.
The federal crime of wire fraud is similar to the offense of mail fraud, except that it makes illegal any criminally fraudulent activity involving electronic communications, and requires that the electronic communications cross state lines.
Examples of wire fraud schemes include false insurance claims, fraudulent investment schemes, misrepresentations in the sale of used automobiles, false application forms for loans fraudulent bond issuances, check kiting schemes, false advertising, and various bribery and kickback schemes.
At the Law Office of Ann Fitz, we can handle all aspects of your mail fraud or wire fraud case. The prosecution must prove that you intended to commit the crime. Our job is to gather the evidence and develop a strategy to defend you.
During the investigation stage, we encourage you to stay silent and not incriminate yourself to preserve your best options. These options depend on the strength of the government's case against you. For example, if the government's evidence is weak, the charges may be dismissed. We have also been successful in arguing for a reduction in prison time or house arrest based on individual circumstances.
Federal "Catch-All" Fraud Charges
Mail fraud and wire fraud are the "catch-all" fraud charges employed by the federal government because the mail and wire fraud statutes are exceptionally broad and overlap with a surprising number of other federal criminal statutes. Bank fraud, health care fraud, securities and commodities fraud, and fraud in foreign labor contracting can all be charged as mail and wire fraud offenses. Wire fraud is a particularly common charge in cases involving public corruption and financial crimes. Both mail and wire fraud require a scheme to deprive a victim of money or property by using deception or deceit – for example, false statements, misrepresentations, or concealment.