Mail fraud, governed by 18 U.S.C. § 1341, is use of the mail, whether it is the United States Postal Service or a private or commercial interstate carrier, to perpetrate, or attempt to perpetrate, a fraud.
Wire fraud, governed by 18 U.S.C. § 1343, is the intentional use of an interstate wire communications device (e.g., phone, fax, e-mail) in a scheme to defraud.
ELEMENTS TO MAIL AND WIRE FRAUD
The elements in mail fraud are:
- devising or intending to devise a scheme to defraud, or performing specific fraudulent acts, and
- using the mail to execute, or attempt to execute, the scheme or specific fraudulent acts.
See Schmuck v. United States, 489 U.S. 705, 721 n. 10 (1989).
The elements in wire fraud are:
- a scheme to defraud;
- Defendant had specific intent to defraud; and
- use of interstate wire communications to facilitate the scheme.
See United States v. Hanson, 41 F.3d 580, 583 (10th Cir. 1994) and United States v. Cassiere, 4 F.3d 1006 (1st Cir. 1993).
PENALTIES FOR MAIL AND WIRE FRAUD
Penalties for an individual convicted of mail fraud or wire fraud include fines (up to $250,000 for individuals and $500,000 for organizations) and/or imprisonment of up to 20 years.
If federal disaster emergency funds are involved or if the case affects a financial institution, penalties may be increased to up to $1,000,000 in fines and/or up to 30 years' imprisonment.
POTENTIAL DEFENSES FOR MAIL AND WIRE FRAUD CHARGES
If the Defendant charged with mail and/or wire fraud can show that they did not have the intent to defraud, or that they were acting in good faith, this challenges one or more essential elements of the crime.
Exaggerations, flattery, and opinionated statements (such as those made by a salesperson), to a legal limit, have been recognized as commonplace by courts. Such statements would not likely constitute as wire fraud, for example, because the consumer would likely understand the statement to be puffery, and not rely on such statement to make a purchase.
MISTAKE OF FACT
If the Defendant communicated false information believing it to be true, then it would be difficult to find that he or she knowingly and intentionally communicated false information in a scheme to defraud.
The government has the burden of proving each element of the crimes of mail and wire fraud beyond a reasonable doubt. The attorneys at Leaf Legal, P.C. will challenge the sufficiency of the prosecution's evidence for each and every element of the crime.
CONTACT LEAF LEGAL, P.C.
If you or your company is facing federal mail and wire fraud charges in the EDNY, SDNY, or anywhere else in the United States, our legal team can help you mount your defense. Contact us online or call us at 212-933-9420 to request a consultation.