An Introduction to Mail and Wire Fraud

If you have a PayPal account, you’ve probably gotten emails with warning headers like ‘Security Breach on Your Account or ‘Act Now or Your Account Will Be Deactivated’. These communications are probably not from PayPal: they are intended to make you panic, log into your ‘account’ via a false website, and unwittingly give your login credentials to a cyber-thief who will lock you out of your own account and empty any balance. It’s a classic example of wire fraud that has fooled hundreds, if not thousands, of people.

Mail and wire fraud is a broad term that covers any scheme that is:

  • Sent via mail or wire
  • Designed to deprive another party of money or property using fraudulent means

Examples of fraud include tax evasion, ‘foreign inheritance’ emails and Ponzi schemes.

Mail and Wire Fraud Explained

Mail Fraud uses the U.S. mail  or a private carrier to defraud someone of money, property or what are referred to as ‘honest services’. (An example of the latter might be bribing a public servant via mail.)  All suspected cases of mail fraud are usually prosecuted by the Department of Justice, while federal investigative agencies such as the IRS or FBI may initiate the investigation.

If you are convicted of mail fraud, the penalties are substantial. You can spend up to 20 years in a federal prison and be ordered to pay a hefty fine. If you defrauded a financial institution, the maximum punishment of 30 years in prison and a $1,000,000 fine could be applied.

Wire fraud uses the phone, fax, email, and other electronic communications to carry out a fraudulent scheme. Practically all forms of wire fraud are prosecuted at the federal level. The law also includes special provisions for wire fraud that directly impacts any American financial institution or pertains to a state of disaster or emergency. The potential penalties are the same as a mail fraud conviction.

If you are charged with mail or wire fraud, the prosecutor doesn’t need to prove that you actually committed the crime or successfully defrauded someone. All they need to demonstrate is that you deliberately attempted to commit an act of fraud and used the mail or an electronic medium to do so.

A Few Things to Bear in Mind

  • Each fraudulent communication sent by mail or wire is considered a separate fraud count.
  • Even if you never actually send the fraudulent communication, you might 
  •  still be charged with mail or wire fraud. If someone overhears you simply referring to a scam you intend to commit, you can be prosecuted.
  • You can be charged with aiding and abetting mail or wire fraud if you knowingly send the communications on someone else’s behalf and do not personally benefit from them. 

If you are being investigated for mail or wire fraud charges, contact Weisberg Kainen Mark, PL before you make a statement to the police. We are thorough and aggressive when it comes to federal white collar defense, and will ensure that your rights and protections are not compromised during the investigation or any proceedings that may arise later. To reach us immediately, call (305) 374-5544.

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Weisberg Kainen Mark, PL

As experienced trial lawyers with a passion for justice, our firm provides clients with compelling advocacy, attorney availability, and creative solutions to your tax or criminal law matters.

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