Mail and Wire Fraud Defense Attorney
Understanding Mail Fraud and Wire Fraud
Wire fraud occurs when a person commits fraud using interstate electronic signals (i.e., wire, radio, television, or telephone communications) with the intent to defraud another individual. This federal crime encompasses, among others, phishing schemes, lottery scams, Ponzi schemes, identity theft, online scams, or telemarketing fraud.
Mail fraud is similar to wire fraud, with the only difference being that the latter includes a mailing component. Mail fraud cases usually involve fraudulent activity facilitated through the use of postal service or mailing items.
Who Investigates Mail and Wire Fraud Cases?
The two primary agencies that investigate individuals suspected of mail and wire fraud are the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United States Postal Inspection Service. The Department of Justice prosecutes cases in federal court.
As this crime applies to any act involving mail or wires, any federal government department could get involved in an investigation if the communication is within their jurisdiction. Other federal agencies likely to participate in investigating mail and wire fraud include the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Internal Revenue Service, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Department of Health & Human Services, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Small Business Association.
Apart from federal agencies, private organizations may also investigate mail and wire fraud. For example, banks and financial institutions have designated compliance and fraud investigation units tasked with reviewing transactions and spotting potential fraudulent conduct. They can also hire cybersecurity firms and forensic accountants to provide expert testimony or check suspicious activity.
What Does the Prosecution Need to Prove in Mail or Wire Fraud Cases?
To be convicted of mail or wire fraud, prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that all the following applies:
- The defendant devised a scheme to commit fraud.
- The defendant willfully and knowingly participated in the scheme
- The defendant used a mail or wire service (whether public or private) to further the scheme
You can be charged with mail fraud if you did any of the following in furtherance of a fraudulent scheme:
- You used a post office, mailbox, or other mail receptacle for it to be delivered by the United States Postal Service or a private mail carrier to another individual
- You received materials delivered to you by the United States Postal Service or a private mail carrier
- You caused an item to be delivered by mail (e.g., you got an employee to drop something in the mail for you)
Similarly, you may be convicted of federal wire fraud if you received, transmitted, or caused anything to be received or transmitted via telephone, electronic communication, radio signal, or television in furtherance of a fraudulent scheme. Wire communication also includes texts, cell phone calls, and every correspondence done through the Internet.
Potential Defense Strategies Against Federal Mail and Wire Fraud Charges
Mail and wire fraud allegations can be challenging to defend against because they are so broad. However, an experienced defense attorney can formulate a strategy to combat these charges. Your legal team may raise these common defenses to mail and wire fraud:
Lack of intent to defraud
Prosecutors must prove that the alleged misconduct was planned for it to qualify as fraud, so a possible defense could be that you had no intention to enter into a scheme to defraud someone.
If you were acting on advice from your lawyer, you did not have any financial motive, or you tried to correct the situation once you found out the ill objective behind it, then your attorney could use a good faith defense.
Communication or Item Did Not Help Fraud
Your attorney may present evidence proving that the communication or mailed item did not further the fraudulent scheme.
Your lawyer may provide evidence establishing that you were not part of the scheme and point to another individual as the culprit.
Potential Penalties for Mail and Wire Fraud Convictions
The punishment for mail and wire fraud convictions will vary depending on the facts of the case, the presiding judge, and federal sentencing guidelines, which consider several factors such as prior criminal history and violation of a position of trust. However, the final sentencing lies at the discretion of the presiding judge. As long as the judge can provide a reasonable basis for his or her decision, then he or she may make what is known as a variance or departure from the guidelines. That means he or she can sentence the person found guilty of wire fraud or mail fraud to any sentence within the statutory range.
Under federal law, mail and wire fraud are felonies. Generally, the maximum term of imprisonment for both mail and wire fraud convictions is 20 years. There is no statutorily required minimum sentence. The maximum fine against individuals is $250,000 and $500,000 for organizations.
If the scheme relates to a major disaster or emergency declared by the President of the United States, the maximum term of imprisonment increases to 30 years, and the maximum fine escalates to $1,000,000 for both individuals and organizations.
What to Do if an Investigator Contacts You
The most important thing to remember when law enforcement investigators approach you about any crime is that you should not talk to them unless you have spoken to your lawyer.
Even though you believe you have not broken the law, you should speak with a white-collar defense attorney who can advise you on how to properly deal with investigators.
The Fifth Amendment exists to afford persons protection from incriminating themselves. All it takes is one mistake to get unnecessarily caught up in a criminal investigation, which can be prolonged and put a heavy financial burden on you and your family. So, should investigators come knocking at your door, you may politely inform them that you would like to speak with your lawyer before answering any of their questions.
How the Serafini Law Office Can Help
If you are accused of mail or wire fraud or are facing mail or wire fraud charges, you should contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer who can protect your rights, future, freedom, money, and reputation.
Mr. Richard A. Serafini of the Serafini Law Office has been practicing law for 40 years. With vast experience in criminal representation and litigation, he is the attorney you need to build an aggressive defense for your wire or mail fraud case or to shepherd you through an investigation.
Our law firm currently offers a range of legal services to the following cities and states: Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton, West Palm Beach, Florida, Pennsylvania, and New York.
Contact us at (754) 223-4718 for a free initial consultation so you can learn more about your legal options.