Mail and Wire Fraud – 18 U.S.C. § 1341, 1343

Mail fraud and wire fraud are two of the most frequent white collar crimes prosecuted in federal court. Both offenses involve fraudulent activity that in some way uses mail or electronic communication.

Federal prosecutors often rely on mail and wire fraud to prosecute cases when more specific crimes such as health-care fraud or bank fraud do not apply. In some fraud cases, the government will begin an investigation as possible wire or mail fraud and bring other charges once it learns more about the case.

Law Of Wire Fraud And Mail Fraud

To convict a person of wire fraud under 18 U.S.C. § 1343, the government must prove that the person intentionally used some kind of electronic communication, such as a phone or email, for purposes of committing fraud. Similarly, mail fraud under 18 U.S.C. § 1341 requires proof that a person intentionally used the Postal Service or a private carrier (such as UPS) to carry out a fraud scheme. Both offenses carry up to 20 years in prison.  Given the severity of these charges, it is important to find an experienced federal fraud lawyer to advise and represent you.

One important detail often missed by educated laypeople is that the prosecutor does not need to prove the mail or wire communications were themselves false or fraudulent. So long as mail or electronic communication was used as part of the fraud, the government can bring federal fraud charges and prosecute the crime as mail or wire fraud. In an era of email and cellphones, only in the rarest of cases will the government have any trouble proving that mail and/or wire communications were used in some way to carry out an alleged fraud.

Defenses to Mail and Wire Fraud

Many defenses are available. For example, courts have recognized that you are not guilty of mail or wire fraud if you honestly believed in the statements or representations that later turned out to be false. This is sometimes referred to as the “good faith” defense. Also, like bank fraud, the government must prove that the alleged misrepresentations were “material.” Numerous other defenses may apply, depending on the facts of a given case.  If you are facing fraud charges, or being investigated for fraud, a federal fraud lawyer should carefully evaluate your case to advise you of any defenses that you might have.

Related Charges for Mail and Wire Fraud

The federal government often investigates or charges mail and wire fraud in connection with other offenses. For example, bank fraud, health care fraud, or even bribery are often prosecuted alongside or instead of wire fraud. If more than one individual is involved in the alleged scheme, the federal government commonly brings conspiracy charges as well. State authorities can also bring charges of their own. Even if you are already indicted, the government can often bring a new indictment (called a superseding indictment) in the middle of a case, with different charges than the first. Each case is unique and it is important to examine your case closely to determine which charge or charges the government is likely considering and whether it has the evidence to prove them.

Other charges often implicated in wire/mail fraud investigations or prosecutions include:

  • Internet crimes
  • Embezzlement
  • Credit card fraud
  • Identity theft
  • Email crimes, phishing or hacking
  • Tax fraud
  • Securities fraud
  • Money laundering
  • False statement in a bank record
  • Immigration document fraud
  • Conspiracy

Mail and wire fraud and other financial crimes can carry long prison terms even for people with little or no criminal history. The federal sentencing guidelines can also play an important role in determining what sentence may be imposed.

Experienced Mail Fraud and Wire Fraud Attorneys

If you believe you may be facing such charges, it is important not to discuss your case with anyone (especially the government) before speaking with an experienced federal white collar crime attorney.

You should contact an experienced white collar criminal defense attorney immediately to discuss which defenses might apply in your case. If you would like to discuss your case with us, please use the contact form to set up your free consultation.