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Federal Criminal Defense

Mail and Wire Fraud

What are Mail and Wire Fraud?

Tricking anyone into giving you their valuables is a crime. Federal authorities have zero tolerance for persons that set up a plot to steal from others using tricks and deceit. It should come as no surprise then that federal prosecutors have a myriad of charges available to deploy against a person they suspect of such these schemes to defraud, and wire and mail fraud are the most frequent charges they use. 

What is Fraud?

Everyone has told a white lie before. A white lie is not fraud. More precisely, fraud is generally defined as:

“Misrepresentation or concealment of a material fact or matter or the scheme to obtain money or property by means of false or fraudulent pretenses involving a false statement, assertion, half-truth or knowing concealment concerning a material fact or matter.”

In other words, fraud is basically the knowing or reckless misrepresentation of a material fact in order to deprive another of something of value. That means you knew that what you told the other person was not true, or that you indicated to the other person something as true when you knew it was possibly false or fraudulent.

The misrepresentation must involve a material fact. That means the fact must be important that the other person would find important or relevant in making their decision. The misrepresentation must also be capable to fool a person of “ordinary prudence.” Put in another way, the misrepresentation cannot sound so outrageous that a careful average joe would not believe it.

The final requirement is a specific “intent to defraud.” To satisfy this last element, the government must prove you acted intending to commit fraud. In other words, federal prosecutors must prove that you knew about the scheme to defraud and for cases of wire and mail fraud, you had the specific objective of committing fraud when you used the mail or a wire communication.

What are the Federal Statutes for Mail and Wire Fraud?

The federal statutes for mail and wire fraud are 18 U.S.C. § 1341 and 18 U.S.C. § 1343 respectively.

Mail and wire fraud charges are immensely flexible tools for federal prosecutors and, along with the charge of false statements under 18 U.S.C. § 1001, are arguably the charges most frequently seen in a federal indictment alleging fraud.

How Do You Prove Mail and Wire Fraud?

Mail fraud and wire fraud are lengthy and complex statutes. Fortunately, both may be broken down into three common elements. To obtain a conviction, federal prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:

The last element is what distinguishes mail fraud from wire fraud. When you use mail, you are charged with mail fraud. When you use wire communications, you are charged with wire fraud.

“Using mail” can include any of the following when done to further the fraud scheme:

“Using a wire communication” can include any of the following done to further the fraud scheme:

Notice, this very broad definition means that using a wire communication includes all texts, cell phone calls, as well as every communication that uses the internet.

Who is Investigating Mail and Wire Fraud?

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) are the most likely agencies investigating persons suspected of mail and wire fraud, as these two are the main law enforcement agencies of the federal government.

Considering that this charge applies to anywhere involving the use of wires or mail, any part of the federal government might be involved in an investigation of wire or mail fraud if the communication is in their jurisdiction.

Thus, federal agencies likely investigating wire or mail fraud include the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Securities Exchange Commission (SEC), Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS), United States Postal Service (USPS), Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), and Small Business Association (SBA).

What are the Punishments for Mail and Wire Fraud?

The punishment for mail and wire fraud most often includes an assessment of heavy fines and a term of imprisonment, but sentencing varies with each case’s unique set of facts, the presiding judge, and factors considered under the federal sentencing guidelines, which you can read more about here.

Are Mail and Wire Fraud Felonies?

Yes, both mail and wire fraud are felonies under federal law.

How Long are the Prison Sentences for Mail and Wire Fraud?

Generally, for both mail and wire fraud:

If, on the other hand, the mail or wire fraud relates to or involves benefits in connection with a major disaster or emergency declared by the president:

What is the Minimum Sentence for Mail and Wire Fraud?

Every sentence in a federal cases is based on the federal sentencing guidelines, which considers a multitude of factors, such as prior criminal history, use of a gun, or position of trust, to calculate a recommended range that the federal judge may use as a guide for sentencing, however the presiding judge ultimately reserves final discretion at sentencing. Thus, as long as the judge provides a reasonable basis for their decision on record, the judge may make what is called a “departure from the guidelines” and sentence the defendant to a term of imprisonment outside the recommended range. You can learn more about the sentencing under the federal sentencing guidelines here.

Will I Be Required to Pay Back Restitution?

Possibly, as it depends on the charges you are convicted of and the unique facts of your case. Ultimately, however, final discretion remains with the judge presiding over sentencing. Factors that also will help determine whether restitution will be required include whether there are victims of the convicted charges, whether those victims suffered compensable harm, the federal sentencing guidelines, and many more. 

Can the Government Seize my Assets During an Investigation? After Conviction?

Possibly, as it again depends on the charges alleged in the indictment and the unique facts of your case As mentioned above, the charges and facts alleged in the indictment shape the scope of the entire criminal proceeding, including assets subject to pre-trial seizures and final forfeiture as part of sentencing, if convicted. You can learn more about the sentencing under the federal sentencing guidelines here.

How is the Government Prosecuting for Mail and Wire Fraud Related to Covid-19?

See our news page for recent updates on COVID-19 mail and wire fraud cases here.

Investigators Contacted me: What Do I Do?

You should only speak with law enforcement investigator regarding anything related to fraud, COVID-19 fraud, or any other related crime after you have spoken to a criminal defense lawyer. Period.

A common question from people involved in a criminal investigation is at what point can they finally clear their name and share their part of the story.

You have probably heard investigators, prosecutors, and others taking the situation out of context, bending the truth, and misunderstanding what actually happened. They are relying on people who are lying, and the whole situation is outrageous and humiliating for you.

You should know that the Fifth Amendment exists to protect anyone accused of a crime from incriminating themselves, and the truth is it takes only one split-second mistake to get unnecessarily tied up in a prolonged criminal investigation that will place a heavy financial and time-consuming burden for you and loved ones. Do not go swimming with sharks alone and without a cage.

You need to speak with a fraud or COVID-19 fraud defense attorney to obtain sound legal advice before you speak with federal fraud investigators, even if you think you have done nothing wrong.

You should contact a defense lawyer that has decades of experience handling criminal investigations before you engage with investigators. Balancing cooperation and protecting your constitutional rights and liberties requires a defense attorney that knows how to handle federal investigators.

When Should I Contact a Federal Fraud Defense Lawyer?

If you have been contacted or anticipate contact from federal fraud or COVID-19 fraud investigators, then you should contact and speak with a federal fraud and COVID-19 fraud defense lawyer to protect yourself, your freedom, and financial stability. You will not be able to talk yourself out of the crosshairs – you’ll only be wound up in a web of investigation tactics.

How Can Schiffer Law Firm Help me?

You need a fraud defense lawyer who knows what they’re doing and has a proven track record of experience defending federal fraud cases. Schiffer law firm has over four decades of experience defending clients involved in federal criminal investigations and clients accused of federal crimes. The fraud defense lawyers at Schiffer law firm know how to handle federal fraud cases from first contact by investigators to overturning wrongful convictions on appeal.

Does Schiffer Law Firm Only Defend People in Texas?

Schiffer law firm attorneys has and continues to defend people needing fraud defense attorneys nationwide. Nobody is too small, and nowhere is too far. If you think you need to speak to a fraud defense attorney, give us a call today.