Mail and Wire Fraud Laws
18 USC Section 1341
According to 18 USC Section 1341 it is illegal to devise or intend to devise any scheme or artifice to defraud, or for obtaining property or money by means of fraudulent or false pretenses, promises or representations, or to sell, loan, dispose of, alter, exchange, give away, distribute, supply for unlawful use any counterfeit or spurious coin, obligation, security, or other article, or the purpose of executing such scheme or artifice or attempting so to do, places in any post office or authorized depository for mail matter, any matter or thing whatever to be sent or delivered by the Postal Service, or deposits or causes to be deposited any matter or thing whatever to be sent or delivered by any private or commercial interstate carrier, or take or receive therefrom, any such matter or thing, or knowingly cause to be delivered by mail or such carrier according to the direction thereon, or at the place at which it is directed to be delivered by the person to whom it is addressed, any such matter or thing.
18 USC Section 1343
According to 18 USC Section 1343, it is illegal to devise or intend to devise any scheme or artifice to defraud, for obtaining property or money by means of fraudulent or false pretenses, promises, or representations, transmits or causes to be transmitted by means of wire, television, radio, or communication in interstate or foreign commerce, any writings, signs, pictures, signals, or sounds for the purpose of executing such artifice or scheme.
Elements of Mail and Wire Fraud Crimes
Mail and wire fraud statutes are basically the same, except for the medium associated with the offense—the wire communication in the case of wire fraud and mail in the case of mail fraud and.
The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt the following elements to convict the defendant of mail fraud:
- Defendant used either wire or mail communications in the foreseeable furtherance.
- There was a scheme involving a material deception for the purposes of committing fraud.
- Defendant willfully and knowingly participated in the scheme.
- Defendant had the intention to deprive another person either of property or honest services.
Use of Wire Communication
For the purposes of these statutes, wire communication means receiving, transmitting or causing something to be received or transmitted through television or radio signal, an interstate electronic or telephone communication in furtherance of the scheme
Use of the Mail Communications
18 USC Section 1343, defines the use of mail communications as the following:
- Placing materials in a mailbox or post office with the intention that the materials are delivered by either the U.S. Postal Service or a private interstate mail carrier to another person.
- Receiving anything that has been delivered by the U.S. Postal Service or a private mail carrier.
- Causing something to be delivered by mail.
Scheme to Defraud
Both mail and wire fraud statutes prohibit any scheme or artifice to obtain or defraud property or money by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, promises, representations, or deprive another person’s right to honest services by such means.
The defendant must have an intent to defraud which is a willful act with the specific intent to cheat or deceive, typically for the purpose of causing financial loss to another person or getting financial gain.
Misconduct that constitutes mail or wire fraud may also constitute a violation of other federal crimes. Among these are frauds based on jurisdictional factors other than the use of mail or wire communication, predicate offense crimes, and other honest services frauds in the form of kickbacks or bribery.
Penalties for Mail/Wire Fraud
- Up to twenty years in federal prison
- A fine of up to $250,000 or $500,000 for organizations
In case the fraud targeted any benefit related to a presidentially declared emergency or disaster or affected a financial institution, the defendant will face
- Up to thirty years in federal prison
- A fine of up to $1,000,000.