Mail fraud and wire fraud charges are often tacked onto federal cases. Prosecutors add them to the pile of charges when pursuing someone for a federal crime. If you’re convicted of fraud, fraud charges can have a devastating impact on your life. Here’s what you need to understand about mail fraud and wire fraud charges, and how a great legal defense can help.
What is Mail Fraud?
Mail fraud is a crime with three core elements. It begins with the intention to commit fraud. If you plan to be dishonest to obtain something that you wouldn’t be able to obtain through honest means, you have an intent to defraud someone.
It doesn’t matter what you obtain through fraud, as long as it’s some kind of property you couldn’t honestly obtain. It can be money, real estate, trade secrets, confidential information, or intellectual property.
If you create a plan to defraud someone and obtain the property, this is called a scheme to defraud.
Mail fraud means that at some point throughout this process, someone had to send something through the mail. This applies to the United States Post Office, as well as private mail carriers like UPS or FedEx.
Mail fraud doesn’t mean that the mail was directly used to commit fraud. It doesn’t mean that necessary documents to obtain property by fraud were sent through the mail. It doesn’t even mean that mail played any kind of important role in the scheme. It merely means that someone sent something in the mail that related to the broader situation of fraud charges.
If this charge sounds broad and sweeping, that’s because it is. Mail fraud charges can be difficult to navigate and come with severe penalties. If you’re facing a mail fraud charge, you need the help of an experienced attorney.
What is Wire Fraud?
Wire fraud and mail fraud are essentially the same charge, but the medium of delivery has changed from physical to electronic. The difference between the two charges is snail mail or email.
Wire fraud meets all of the same marks as mail fraud, but mail is substituted for technology. This could be phone calls, emails, the internet, fax machines, or text messages. It encompasses any kind of electronic communication used directly or indirectly in an act of fraud.
Who Gets Charged With Mail Fraud and Wire Fraud?
Mail fraud and wire fraud charges apply to people who receive money or property from a purported scheme, as well as people alleged to have attempted to receive money or property. You don’t necessarily need to have received anything to be charged with mail fraud or wire fraud.
Mail fraud and wire fraud are among the most frequently prosecuted federal crimes because the definitions of the crimes are vague. They can apply to any number of situations. It’s very easy to prosecute someone for mail fraud, and the penalties are severe.
What Are the Penalties for Mail Fraud?
Mail fraud and wire fraud are almost always federal crimes because they usually cross state lines. If a piece of mail starts in Arizona and ends in California and that piece of mail might be associated with a fraud case, the case is now a federal crime. Federal crimes generally come with hefty penalties.
Mail fraud and wire fraud are punishable by up to 20 years in prison, in addition to fines of up to $250,000. If the victim of the fraud scheme was a financial organization or a disaster relief organization, the maximum penalty is harsher. You may serve up to 30 years in federal prison, and fines can be as high as $1,000,000.
In some cases, the penalty can be probation without prison time. In most fraud cases, probation terms will range from 1 to 3 years. Sentences of probation typically come in conjunction with the above mentioned fines, and the payment of those fines is usually a term of a probation sentence.
Possible Defenses Against Fraud Charges
Fraud is a very serious charge. If you’re facing fraud charges in Tucson, Arizona, you need the assistance of a competent attorney immediately. Don’t volunteer any information to law enforcement. Avoid incriminating yourself.
After a confidential consultation with a lawyer, your lawyer can explore the situation for your best possible defenses. There are several ways to successfully defend against fraud charges. The prosecution needs to prove that you acted in bad faith or had intent to commit the crime. If you didn’t, this may be a strong defense against your charges.
Acting in Good Faith
Fraud can only be committed when there is deliberate deception at play. For example, someone provides you with funding to establish a nonprofit organization for an important cause. Six months pass, and you still haven’t established your non-profit. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have defrauded someone.
If your lawyers or team members are still putting together the necessary paperwork for that non-profit organization, you didn’t defraud the person who gave you money. The plan simply moved slower than expected. If the funds haven’t been misappropriated and you didn’t deliberately deceive anyone, no crime was committed.
Lack of Intent
There are plenty of circumstances under which someone may accidentally misappropriate funds. For example, someone gives you a large sum of money to make a specific purchase on their behalf. You make a large personal purchase, accidentally using their funds. If you wrote a check from the wrong account or used the wrong debit card by accident, it wasn’t your intention to defraud someone. You made an honest mistake.
What To Do When You’re Charged with Fraud
Fraud carries some of the most extreme penalties for those convicted of the crime. If you’ve been charged with fraud, you need to speak to a criminal defense lawyer immediately. Elias Damianakos is a former prosecutor, giving him a unique insight into the way the prosecution treats crimes like fraud. Call for a consultation immediately, so we can begin preparing your defense.