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The world of communication has changed drastically in recent years. Even though modern technology provides more opportunities for communication and business efforts than ever before, there are crimes governed by statutes that have largely remained the same other than how they deal with these new modes of communication.
Two of the crimes that fit into this continuum are mail fraud and wire fraud. Below you will find information regarding each crime, along with examples of what could constitute mail fraud or wire fraud, the statutes that govern these crimes, the penalties that a convicted defendant could face, and finally, how you should proceed if you face either of these charges.
Mail fraud, stated simply, is defrauding another person or entity by means of using a postal service. Basically, mail fraud is almost always committed for the purpose of wrongful financial gain, and this crime can be committed against individuals, businesses, the government, and financial institutions.
Mail fraud is a federal crime by nature, as using the postal service to advance a criminal attempt necessarily involves the federal government. There is a relatively clear statute in existence that defines mail fraud, and each of the two required elements is explained below. In order to commit mail fraud, the defendant must:
The language of the statute is very loose for a reason – prosecutors want discretion to be able to pursue charges when the situation necessitates it. In terms of how an investigation typically unfolds, the postal service has a branch called the US Postal Inspectors that begins the process. If mail fraud is suspected, the case is sent to the Department of Justice for prosecution. However, mail fraud investigations may be initiated by the FBI, IRS, or any other federal agency with investigative powers.
Additionally, the penalties for a conviction of mail fraud can be quite severe. A convicted defendant can face up to 20 years in prison and substantial fines. However, if a financial institution is defrauded, a maximum prison term of 30 years and a fine of up to $1,000,000.00 could be imposed.
Wire fraud is much the same as mail fraud, but its existence as a law and a charge is in reality a reflection of the advancing modes of communication. Basically, wire fraud is similar to mail fraud, with the only real difference being that the telephone, interstate wires, or the Internet is used as the mode of communication.
There are four basic elements to wire fraud, which is also a federal crime, and they include conduct such that:
Clearly, these requirements are open to interpretation by investigators and prosecutors, but if a defendant is convicted of these charges, there is little room for interpretation by the judge who hands out the sentence. For wire fraud committed against most parties, the convicted defendant could face up to 20 years in prison and substantial fines. However, if the defendant defrauded a financial institution, the fine could reach $1,000,000.00 and a prison term of up to 30 years can be imposed.
Clearly, being charged with either of these crimes constitutes a serious problem. Rather than attempt to deal with the federal investigatory and prosecutorial system by yourself, you need to seek the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney who understands how to properly defend those accused of these acts. Contact the criminal defense lawyers at the law firm of Zimmermann Lavine & Zimmermann, P.C. today to schedule an initial consultation.