If you are facing federal fraud charges in DC, it is important to consult with an experienced DC federal mail and wire fraud lawyer who can evaluate the case against you and craft a skillful defense against the federal white collar charges, based on the particular facts of your case. The burden of proving federal fraud charges lies with the United States government.
Your federal criminal defense attorney may be able to effectively challenge the evidence presented against you.
When facing fraud charges, it’s very important to know what you’re up against. By consulting with a DC federal mail and wire fraud lawyer, you can learn more about how federal statutes apply to your particular case.
“Fraud” is an offense that encompasses various types of deception, typically for financial gain. While certain types of fraud are prohibited and punished under the local law for the District of Columbia, the DC Code, a number of types of other white collar crimes, including fraud, are also violations of federal law, the United States Code. Federal fraud charges are prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys in the United States District Courts. Here in the District of Columbia, mail fraud and wire fraud cases are heard in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia located at 333 Constitution Avenue in Washington, DC.
The penalties for mail fraud and wire fraud are severe—up to 30 years in prison, depending on the specific characteristics of the offense. In general, under the local DC Code, fraud is punishable with a maximum sentence of up to 10 years in prison, if the property which is fraudulently obtained is valued at $1,000 or more.
However, if the accused simply use the U.S. Postal Service, a wire transfer service, the telephone, or the internet to transmit alleged fraudulent documents or items this fact could elevate the offense to the federal crime of mail fraud, which carries the possibility of significantly higher penalties.
Title 18 Chapter 63 of the United States Code outlines the various fraud offenses prohibited by federal law. The mail fraud statute is outlined in 18 U.S. Code Section 1341, which describes “Frauds and Swindles,” in general.
Under this statute, anyone who attempts to obtain money or property through fraud, deception, misrepresentation, false promises, or other false pretenses, and who uses the U.S. Post Office or a private carrier to deliver or receive information, funds, or goods related to the fraud scheme, may be prosecuted for mail fraud . The maximum penalty for mail fraud is a maximum of 20 years in prison and/or a monetary fine. If, however, the fraud involves a financial institution, the maximum penalty is increased to 30 years.
Wire fraud is similar to mail fraud, in that it is any attempt to defraud an individual, business, agency, organization, or the government out of money or property to which the accused is not entitled under the law. Rather than being transmitted through the U.S. Postal Service or a private mail or delivery service, however, wire fraud is transmitted through any “wired” communication, including the telephone, cellular phones, text messages or e-mails.
Essentially, the crimes of mail fraud and wire fraud are the same, but the wire fraud statute was enacted to keep pace with evolving technology. Telemarketing fraud and email phishing schemes may be charged as wire fraud as well, but other, more commonplace acts can also be wire fraud.
For example, if a person falsifies an application for financial assistance and submits that application online, he or she could be charged with wire fraud in addition to bankruptcy fraud, credit card fraud, or whatever specific underlying fraud is related to the alleged conduct. Like mail fraud, wire fraud is punishable by a maximum of 20 years in prison, unless the deception involves a financial institution. Again, the penalty in the case would be enhanced to a 30 year maximum.
The statutes defining mail and wire fraud are intentionally vague. This gives prosecutors great leeway in filing these charges in conjunction with other types of fraud. Transmitted unlawful schemes via correspondence through the mail, discussing a fraudulent business proposition over the telephone, or emailing a prospective investor misleading information could all lead to mail or wire fraud charges in addition to charges of health care fraud, securities fraud, or other types of fraud that are connected to the alleged underlying offense.
Additionally, prosecutors are often file a separate charge for each specific instance of mail or wire fraud, meaning that if multiple checks were mailed for example, the accused could be indicted on multiple counts of mail fraud.
Often, prosecutors file as many charges as the underlying conduct allegedly supports, realizing that the defense may try to negotiate a plea to lesser or fewer counts. This can be an effective defense strategy, but sometimes your attorney may find it necessary to fight your case at trial to achieve the best result for your particular situation.
While the maximum penalties for mail and wire fraud are 20 to 30 years in prison, the U.S. Voluntary Sentencing Commission Guidelines ascribes recommended penalties based upon the value of the property the defendant fraudulently obtained or attempted to obtain, the number of victims of a fraud scheme, and the criminal history of the defendant, the actual sentence is ultimately up to the federal judge.
Mail fraud has a base offense level of 7 under the sentencing guidelines, which means a person with no criminal history convicted of fraud valued at less than $5,000 would likely serve 0-6 months in prison under the sentencing guidelines, if the judge agrees to follow the guideline range. However, as the value of the fraudulently obtained property increases, so does the severity of the sentencing guideline range.
If you are investigated or indicted for mail or wire fraud in federal court in DC, there are several details and nuances of federal law that can make or break your case. A good defense attorney has a number of options, from challenging the prosecution’s ascribed value of property involved in the case to aggressively fighting to defend your innocence.
Our DC federal mail and wire fraud attorneys are dedicated to building an effective defense for your unique case. Call today to learn more.