Fraud can take a variety of different forms. Mail fraud and wire fraud are two related forms of the crime that involve misleading statements intended to facilitate theft.
Wire fraud is so-named because it takes place by telephone or through the internet. Phishing, telemarketing fraud and schemes related to email scams are all forms of wire fraud.
To secure a conviction for wire fraud, a prosecutor must prove that a defendant participated in or created a scheme to defraud someone and did so with communications involving interstate wires — including phone calls, e-mails, faxes, the internet, television or radio.
A mail fraud conviction can result if a defendant engaged in a scheme to defraud others through the use of omissions or misstatements that occurred using the U.S. mail.
If you’ve been accused of any type of fraud involving U.S. mail or interstate wire communications, Attorney Michael J. Petro can assist you. Attorney Petro has extensive experience in providing criminal defense for a wide variety of white-collar crime allegations.
Types of Mail and Wire Fraud
Typically, individuals who commit wire fraud are seeking financial information that they can use to obtain funds from credit cards or bank accounts. Telemarketing fraud is a common type of wire fraud scheme.
Wire fraud also is committed frequently online. Phishing is a common form of internet scam in which unsolicited “spam” email is sent to multiple people. The emails may include a story that encourages victims to provide their personal financial information.
For instance, the common “Nigerian prince scam” is a form of internet wire fraud. In an email, the sender claims to be a Nigerian prince who needs help with getting money out of the country. The alleged prince asks the victim to provide bank account information so he can deposit the money temporarily, and the victim will be paid a fee for his trouble.
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service — which is the law enforcement branch of the U.S. Postal Service — describes multiple types of mail fraud. Employment fraud, for instance, can include fake job opportunities, pyramid schemes, franchise fraud and work-at-home scams.
Sweepstakes and lottery scams can include chain letters, free-prize schemes, vacation scams and foreign lotteries by mail.
In many cases, senior citizens are the targets of mail fraud and wire fraud. Callers may try to convince seniors to provide their financial information and pressure them to make quick decisions on the phone.
No Actual Loss Required for Conviction
A conviction on wire fraud charges doesn’t require financial loss to a victim. Wire fraud statutes specifically address participating in a “scheme to defraud,” so a conviction can occur even if the victim did not lose any money. The act of attempting to take the money by fraudulent means is sufficient for a prosecutor to obtain a conviction for wire fraud.
Wire fraud charges also can apply when a defendant allegedly participates in a plan to defraud someone of what the law terms “honest services.” Public officials and others in positions of trust have a duty to provide ethical services, and wire fraud can occur if the individual entrusted with the duty uses interstate communications devices to violate their duty.
Under this definition, wire fraud can include kickbacks or bribery. Even though a victim did not suffer a financial loss, the victim has been deprived of the public services the defendant held a duty to provide.
Potential Criminal Penalties May Apply
Each count of wire fraud — such as an individual, fraudulent phone call — is considered as a separate offense, and significant penalties can apply. One count of wire fraud can mean up to 20 years in prison, along with fines. A wire fraud violation affecting a financial organization or related to a disaster or emergency declared by the president can result in penalties including 30 years in prison and fines up to $1 million.
If you’re accused of mail fraud or wire fraud, it’s critical that you work with an experienced criminal defense attorney. Contact Attorney Michael J. Petro for a consultation.