Federal law prohibits the transmission of information through mail or wire with the intent to fraudulently deprive anyone of his or her property or of the receipt of an honest service. The first mail fraud statute was introduced by Congress in 1872. Later, the Mail Fraud Act and was amended to include commercial mail carriers and schemes that involve fraudulent promises to deliver service, and the wire fraud act was enacted. If you are facing mail or wire fraud charges in Fort Lauderdale, Naples or Coral Springs, seek the assistance of an experienced defense attorney immediately after your arrest.
What constitutes mail fraud?
Because the federal mail fraud statute was written very broadly, it is very common for defendants to be charged with the offense, especially in cases that involve other white collar crimes like bank fraud. An individual may be convicted of mail fraud if the prosecutor establishes:
- the accused devised or intended to devise a scheme or artifice to defraud or obtain another person or institution’s money through the use of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises;
- the false or fraudulent pretense, promise, or misrepresentation was material and capable of influencing the person to whom it was addressed;
- the accused intended to deprive another party of money, property, or honest services;
- the accused used the U.S. Postal Service or another commercial mail carrier in the furtherance of the scheme.
All four elements must be met in order to convict a defendant. Prosecutors also sometimes charge a defendant with mail fraud when they are concerned that there may not be enough evidence to convict the defendant of a related offense. Nevertheless, mail fraud is treated very seriously by law enforcement and federal prosecutors. Therefore, individuals who are accused of mail fraud should immediately contact an experienced Fort Lauderdale or Naples mail fraud defense lawyer.
Because the definition of mail fraud is broad, nearly any type of scheme can be considered to be in violation of the statute. Nevertheless, there are common mail fraud schemes with which most people are familiar. These schemes are used to defraud people out of their money, personal information, and assets. Examples include:
- 1-900 telephone numbers;
- Loan schemes that charge an upfront fee;
- Soliciting donations to a fraudulent charity;
- Credit card fraud;
- Charging money for free government services;
- Health insurance fraud;
- Ponzi schemes;
- Fake invoices;
- Land fraud;
- Work-from-home scams;
What constitutes wire fraud?
In 1952, Congress extended the provisions of the mail fraud statute to cover newer technologies by enacting the wire fraud statute. The wire fraud statute prohibits people from using electronic signals across state lines and internationally in the furtherance of a fraudulent scheme. Wire, radio, and television are specific devices mentioned in the statute; however, the law also covers many fraud offenses that involve the use of computers and the internet. Similar to proving mail fraud, a federal prosecutor must establish the following to obtain a wire fraud conviction:
- The defendant played a role in a scheme to defraud a person or entity of money or something of value through fraud and false pretenses;
- The defended acted knowingly or with the intent to defraud the victim;
- The defendant made false representations that were material to the transaction;
- The defendant transmitted the false representation by wire, radio, or television across state lines or international borders.
Wire fraud schemes typically focus on stealing people’s money and financial information with the intent to access bank accounts and credit cards to make purchases and even open new accounts. Phishing is a very common wire fraud scheme that is still used today to access unauthorized information. Most people are familiar with spam emails that usually originate from another country and detail reasons the email recipient should reply to the sender with his or her banking information or other personal information. Other examples of wire fraud include telemarketing schemes through which the victim’s credit card or other financial information is solicited, oftentimes to confirm a non-existent subscription or claim a fraudulent prize.
Organizations that participate in fraudulent schemes sometimes employ unsuspecting people who may legitimately believe their are working a legal job that does not violate any federal or state laws. Therefore, it is possible that an innocent person might become entangled in a fraudulent scheme and face criminal charges as a result.
Federal penalties for mail and wire fraud
Mail and wire fraud are federal offenses that carry severe sentences. If a person is convicted of mail fraud, he or she may be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison, pay a as much as $250,000 in fines, be put on probation, and/or be required to pay restitution to the victim. Wire fraud carries a separate sentence of up to 20 years imprisonment and a maximum of $250,000 in fines. Therefore, mail and wire fraud conviction can be very costly.
Contact a Fort Lauderdale federal defense attorney
People who find themselves faced with a mail or wire fraud charge or informal accusation should contact a qualified fraud defense attorney, even if they have simply been asked by law enforcement to come in for a voluntary interview. Having an attorney present during all interactions with police can ensure an accused person avoid self-incrimination and feel more at ease while cooperating with the investigation to the extent he or she should. Fort Lauderdale mail and wire fraud defense lawyers are available to provide a confidential case consultation free of charge.
Joffe Law, P.A. represent clients throughout Broward County, Florida, including:
- Pembroke Pines
- Coral Springs
- Pompano Beach