Why are Mail Fraud and Wire Fraud Federal Crimes?

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Since 1872, Federal law has prohibited “mail and wire fraud,” or any attempt to intentionally deprive someone else of their property or services through mail or wire communication. Because mail and wire communications frequently cross state lines fraud by these means are regularly charged in federal courts.

Cases involving mail fraud or write fraud can be complex; understanding the basics is key if one has been charged with such a crime.

What Constitutes Mail Fraud?

Mail Fraud is covered by Federal law under 18 U.S.C. § 1341, which states in pertinent part:

Whoever, having devised or intending to devise any scheme or artifice to defraud, or for obtaining money or property by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises, or to sell, dispose of, loan, exchange, alter, give away, distribute, supply, or furnish or procure for unlawful use any counterfeit or spurious coin, obligation, security, or other article, or anything represented to be or intimated or held out to be such counterfeit or spurious article, for 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 takes or receives therefrom, any such matter or thing, or knowingly causes 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, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both.

What Constitutes Wire Fraud?

Wire Fraud is covered by Federal law under 18 U.S.C. § 1343, which states in pertinent part:

Whoever, having devised or intending to devise any scheme or artifice to defraud, or for obtaining money or property by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises, transmits or causes to be transmitted by means of wire, radio, or television communication in interstate or foreign commerce, any writings, signs, signals, pictures, or sounds for the purpose of executing such scheme or artifice, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both.

One important thing to keep in mind is that the government must prove that the attempted defrauding was done intentionally, meaning that the person acted with fraud being their goal and purpose. For the claim to be charged in federal court, the attempt to defraud has to have originated in one state and gone across state lines to another.

A person accused of committing Wire Fraud may be charged in any state where the message was sent or originated. For example if a person in California  sent emails to business partners in Nebraska, Colorado, Illinois and Iowa as part of a scheme to defraud, he could be federally charged with Wire Fraud in any and all of the 5 states where the message was sent or received.

If the communications or actions occurred within a single state, there is no Federal cause of action (although there is the potential for state criminal charges, depending on what state law says).

Another thing to keep in mind is that Wire Fraud most frequently applies to transactions over the internet. Wire Fraud often takes the form of email or social media private messaging. Berry law Firm’s federal criminal defense attorneys have defended wire-fraud cases involving thousands of electronic messages. In some instances the messages and electronic documents used by the government to prosecute Wire Fraud cases spanned several years.

If you are facing issues with a mail or wire fraud charge, take immediate action to protect your rights. Contact Berry Law Firm to speak with our attorneys and discuss your legal options.

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