The federal crimes of wire and mail fraud are two versions of essentially the same offense. Both crimes make it unlawful to use the most popular forms of communication to advance criminal conduct. Both wire and mail communication methods are regulated by the federal government, thereby giving it jurisdiction to prosecute those accused of allegedly using wire communications or the US Mail to commit fraud. When facing these federal charges you can consult a Maryland federal wire and mail fraud lawyer, but keep in mind that not all attorneys are admitted to practice in federal court.
Wire fraud is prohibited, making it illegal for anyone to voluntarily and intentionally use an interstate communications device (such as a telephone, cell phone, or computer) to defraud victims of money, property, or anything else of value. The federal mail fraud statute essentially prohibits the same conduct, however, 18 US Code Section 1341 prohibits anyone from using the US. Postal Service to defraud another person, a company or other entity, an organization, or the government. The mail fraud statute has been expanded to prohibit fraud using private carriers parcel carriers that are regulated by the federal government, such as FedEx, UPS, and other similar companies that deliver packages across state lines.
The government is required to prove specific intent to commit wire or mail fraud as an element to the crimes. Thus, one cannot be convicted for accidentally committing wire or mail fraud. Federal prosecutors must prove that the defendant acted with the specific intent to deceptively deprive someone of money, property, or something of value. This involves written or electronically transmitted statements, promises, false representations, deceptions, or any other falsehood. A Maryland federal mail and wire fraud lawyer may build a defense partly around the fact that someone had no intent to defraud.
For example, sending a formal-looking letter or spam email offering to sell stolen goods or land that someone does not own with the intent to unlawfully persuade a victim to give them money or any asset of value could be considered a scheme commit mail and/or wire fraud.
Every separate act of wire or mail fraud can be charged as a separate offense. For example, if the government can prove that 10 separate letters or emails were transmitted and each constitute fraud, and the accused is convicted at trial, at sentencing the federal judge would have the power to sentence the accused on each of the 10 separate counts of wire or mail fraud, although the counts would likely merge under the US Voluntary Sentencing Guidelines which are advisory for the federal judge.
In some cases, the government may not be required to prove that the alleged fraud resulted in a financial loss to the victim. Often in public corruption prosecutions, the accused may be charged with Bribery and Extortion in addition to wire and mail fraud. Often the government in these cases will allege the accused deprived the public of honest government services using wire communications and/or the US Mail. In these scenarios, there may be no pecuniary loss by the victims, yet the officials have still deprived the public of the honest services they swore in their oath to provide.
Like conspiracy, federal prosecutors often use both mail and wire fraud as a catch-all charge, because they have broad applications that are easier to prove than many more serious federal crimes. In the case of securities fraud, the actual evidence needed to prove securities fraud, beyond a reasonable doubt, is much higher than proving that wire and/or mail fraud occurred. Thus, so long as the government can show the accused made an effort to further a securities fraud scheme using the mail, a telephone, or any computer communications device a jury could find a defendant guilty of wire or mail fraud.
While specific penalties can vary depending on the facts surrounding the case, any wire or mail fraud conviction can produce large fines, long sentences in federal prison, and other statutory penalties. The following penalties are for stand-alone wire or mail fraud convictions and do not take into account other federal crimes that may constitute underlying offenses, which can add additional prison time and fines. For further detail on how these penalties might apply to a fact-specific case, someone should consult with a Maryland federal mail and fraud lawyer.
Since multiple counts can be charged, each one can technically produce a prison sentence of up to 20 years. Harsher sentences await those who commit more heinous forms of these frauds. For example, when a fraud scheme involves federal disaster relief funds or if the victim is a financial institution, the prison sentence can be as high as 30 years per offense. Although, most federal prison sentences are served concurrently (at the same time) and the US Voluntary Sentencing Guidelines will likely recommend the offenses merge for sentencing purposes.
Anyone convicted of wire or mail fraud also faces a up to $250,000 in fines. If the fraud is committed against financial institutions or federal disaster relief agencies, anyone convicted of wire or mail fraud can face up to $1 million in fines, per count.
The federal sentencing judge has the power to order restitution, if victims have been defrauded of money, property, or other assets as a result of any mail or wire fraud. Restitution is above and beyond any amount ordered by the judge to be paid in fines.
Under some circumstances, those convicted of wire or mail fraud can receive probation or be allowed parole after serving a minimum prison sentence. There are many strict conditions that enable the government to monitor probationers and parolees and restrict their behavior. If restitution is also being paid to the fraud victims, it must be completed before the terms of probation or parole can be fulfilled.
If you have any questions regarding these charges or the law, you can contact a Maryland federal mail and wire fraud attorney who has experienced with white collar defense and can help you with your charge.