Mail Fraud and Wire Fraud

These are federal crimes involving the use of outside services or carriers to commit fraud. Mail fraud occurs when the U.S. Postal Service or other carriers are used to carry out a plan to defraud someone of money or property. Similarly, if someone uses their phone, e-mail address, internet messaging or any other form of electronic communication as a means of false pretenses of representations to defraud someone of money or property, then that is wire fraud.

What Are Mail Fraud and Wire Fraud?

The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) is a law that was enacted in 1970 to prosecute organized crime. RICO lists 35 acts of racketeering that include violent or white-collar crimes, such as fencing racket, arson, and kidnapping. 27 of the crimes are federal crimes, and 8 are state crimes. If a person is found to have committed any two acts of racketeering within a 10-year period, then they can be charged under RICO.

Mail fraud is prosecuted under 18 U.S.C. section 1341. One commits mail fraud when they: (1) have devised or intend to devise a scheme to defraud (or to perform specified fraudulent acts), and (2) use of the mail for the purpose of executing, or attempting to execute, the scheme (or specified fraudulent acts). 

Wire fraud is prosecuted under 18 U.S.C. section 1343.  Wire fraud is parallel to that of mail fraud, except 18 U.S.C. section 1343 requires the use of an interstate telephone call or electronic communication made in the furtherance of the scheme. As such, one commits wire fraud when they: (1) have devised or participated in a scheme to defraud another out of money; (2) they do so with an intent to defraud; (3) it was reasonably foreseeable that interstate wire communications would be used; and (4) interstate wire communications were in fact used.


Types of Mail Fraud

Mail safety is of great importance because of the risk of mail fraud. Different types of mail fraud include:

  • Sweepstakes and lottery fraud
  • Inheritance scams, such as “Nigerian Prince” email scams
  • Fraudulent mystery shopper offer
  • Fake job offer letters from jobs never applied to
  • Charity donation fraud
  • Claims that someone owes money to the IRS or another government agency
  • Ponzi schemes

Types of Wire Fraud

Just like with mail fraud, there are many ways to commit wire fraud, including:

  • Phishing, which is sending emails pretending to be from reputable companies
  • Telemarketing fraud
  • Catfishing, or using a fake identity 

Anytime radio, telephone, or wire is used to defraud someone of money, assets or property, then it can be considered wire fraud.

Federal vs. State Charges

Again, mail fraud and wire fraud can be charged either as a federal crime or a state crime. Federal crimes always carry with them a sentence of at least one year in prison if convicted. Federal laws are in place to protect the national interest, so violations that are related to immigration, drug charges, weapon charges and white-collar crimes are aggressively prosecuted to protect the country. This means that several agencies can be involved in the investigation of mail fraud or wire fraud, including:

  • The Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • The Secret Service
  • Internal Revenue Service
  • Department of Homeland Security
  • Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms

State law violations, however, aren’t investigated by federal agencies. Instead, they are investigated by the local or state police or sheriff’s office. The state’s District Attorneys prosecute these cases, whereas U.S. Attorneys prosecute federal crimes.

Federal Sentencing Guidelines

Mail Fraud and Wire Fraud falls under §2B1.1. Larceny, Embezzlement, and Other Forms of Theft; Offenses Involving Stolen Property; Property Damage or Destruction; Fraud and Deceit; Forgery; Offenses Involving Altered or Counterfeit Instruments Other than Counterfeit Bearer Obligations of the United States

Base Offense Level: 

  1. 7, if (A) the defendant was convicted of an offense referenced to this guideline; and (B) that offense of conviction has a statutory maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years or more; or

6, otherwise, in addition, if the loss exceeds $6,500 then there is a range of enhancements that can add between 2 and 30 levels to the offense, which are all included in the United States Sentencing Commission Guidelines Manual.

Proving Mail Fraud And Wire Fraud

The prosecution will have to convince the jury that the defendant in a mail fraud or wire fraud case did the following:

  • You devised a scheme with the intention to defraud someone.
  • You intended to devise such a scheme (you can be charged even if the scheme is not successful).
  • You used mail or wire services to conduct fraudulent activity.

Hiring A Criminal Defense Attorney

The consequences of mail fraud or wire fraud can vary. Fines for a single count of mail fraud can be as high as $250,000, but if a financial institution or federal disaster relief fund was involved, then fines can rise up to $1 million per offense. Depending on the severity of the crime, too, time in federal prison can last up to 20 years, or even 30 years if a federal disaster relief fund or financial institution were involved. Restitution payments may also be required, if convicted, to pay back victims of the crime. 

If you have been accused of mail fraud or wire fraud, then you need to act fast. The prosecution can file an injunction to temporarily seize your assets and property, and prevent any transfers of money or property. Do not talk to the federal agents. Remember that you have a right to remain silent and the right to receive legal counsel from an attorney. So if you are being investigated for mail fraud or wire fraud, or have received a target letter, then the call Law Office of Vikas Bajaj today.