Being charged with a crime that is a felony can be a frightening and stressful experience. It may feel even more terrifying if you are charged with a federal felony charge. That is exactly what happens if you are charged with wire or mail fraud—both serious felony charges that can result in hefty fines and long prison sentences. However, you need to remember that you are not without options and do not have to go through this experience alone. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you navigate the criminal justice system and aggressively build a defense to your charges.
What Is Federal Mail Fraud?
Anytime someone uses the U.S. mail in an attempt to engage in fraud with the intent to deprive a person of his property or honest services, he can be charged under federal mail fraud laws. This is a very common federal offense that people are charged with because it applies in so many situations and many potential crimes involve the use of the mail. For example, if a person tries to bribe a governmental official or accepts a kickback, he can be charged with mail fraud as well as bribery if he sent any letter or other information in the mail. If you are charged with this crime, you are facing serious charges that could result in you owing a huge fine and facing years in federal prison. You cannot afford to delay in building your defense.
You could be charged with mail fraud, even if you did not use the U.S. postal service. If you used another interstate carrier, such as FedEx, UPS, or other commercial carriers, you could be charged with this crime. Because these companies cross state lines, they come under these laws.
To be convicted of mail fraud, the prosecutor would need to prove the elements of the crime. These include the following:
- You devised or intended to devise a scheme to defraud or to perform certain specified fraudulent acts.
- You used the mail to execute or attempt to execute the scheme or specified fraudulent acts.
Mail fraud can involve many different types of fraudulent schemes that prey on people looking for jobs or financial investments and on vulnerable groups of people, such as the elderly. Some examples of mail fraud crimes include:
- Phony job offers
- Mystery shopper offers
- Ponzi schemes
- Charity donation fraud
- Loan schemes where the victim is charged an advanced fee
- Schemes claiming a person owes federal taxes or other governmental services
- Phony inheritance scam
What Is Wire Fraud?
Wire fraud occurs when a person intentionally and voluntarily uses a communication device that sends information over state lines as part of a scheme to defraud another out of money or other valuables. It can involve the use of a landline telephone, cell phone, computer, tablet, or other electronic device.
Wire fraud can involve many different schemes to defraud a person using electronic communications such as emails, webpages, and social media. Examples of these crimes include:
- Any of the examples listed for mail fraud if the communication is sent electronically.
- Creating a webpage to ask for donations for a charity or a personal tragedy that is fraudulent.
- Stealing bank and other financial information to transfer money out of a person’s bank and other financial accounts, to make charges on his credit cards, or to take out credit cards in his name.
- Sending a mass email to a person’s email contacts with a tragic story as to why the person needs money immediately.
The elements of a claim for wire fraud are very similar to those of mail fraud. You could be charged with wire fraud if the following four elements of the crime are established:
- You voluntarily or intentionally participated in or devised a scheme to defraud someone of money or other valuables.
- You did so with the intent to defraud the person.
- It was reasonably foreseeable that interstate wire communications would be used.
- Interstate wire communications were in fact used in the scheme.
Penalties You Could Face If Convicted of Mail or Wire Fraud
You would face serious consequences if convicted of either mail or wire fraud. If you are convicted of mail fraud, you could be sentenced to the following:
- Prison sentence of up to 20 years
- Fines up to $250,000
A person charged with wire fraud can face a separate charge for each act of fraud. For a single conviction of wire fraud, you could face the following penalties:
- Prison sentence of up to 20 years
- Fines not exceeding $250,000
Contact an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney
Hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney is essential if you are facing federal mail or wire fraud charges. Even if you believe you are guilty, you could still have defenses that would result in the charges against you being dismissed or reduced to less serious charges. You want an attorney who understands the differences between fighting federal and state criminal charges and has experience defending people federal court. He will be able to negotiate a plea agreement with the prosecutor for you if this becomes necessary and can put his team to work investigating the details of your crime to build the best possible defense for you.
At Greenspun Shapiro PC, our Fairfax criminal defense attorneys have experience handling a variety of criminal matters—including mail and wire fraud and other federal charges. We have a reputation for tenaciously and aggressively defending our clients no matter how complex the charges are against them. Fill out our online form or call our Fairfax law firm at (703) 352-0100 to schedule your free consultation to learn how we can help you.