Mail fraud is a federal crime that requires the government to prove that the accused utilized the interstate mails, such as the U.S. Postal Service or private interstate carriers, to carry out a scheme to defraud another. This violation is most frequently investigated by the FBI or U.S.Postal Inspectors, and applies in a wide range of scenarios whenever there is an allegation that money or property was illegally taken. Similarly, the crime of wire fraud prohibits the use of interstate wires, such as telephone, fax, or email, in furtherance of a scheme to defraud another of money or property.
Fraudulent schemes can and do vary. Examples include mortgage fraud, investment fraud, internet fraud, Ponzi schemes, or tax evasion. The government bears the burden in these cases to prove deception on the part of the accused and that the defendant had the specific intent to defraud. That is to say, merely because a “victim” lost money does not mean a crime has been committed. It must be demonstrated that the accused caused the loss and did so deliberately through dishonest means and intent to cheat or mislead.
Communication by mail or electronics need not be essential to the fraud to constitute mail or wire fraud. For example, one phone call or mailing can lead to a criminal charge. Also, an individual does not have to be directly involved in the mailing or use of the wires; merely causing another to mail or wire funds can result in wire or mail fraud charges. Charges can quickly multiply as each act of mailing or electronic communication can be charged separately in an indictment.
Mail and wire fraud are also recognized predicates in civil and criminal RICO cases. We have on numerous occasions represented clients in their civil cases, bringing our experience and expertise to those matters, while at the same time preparing to meet a possible criminal investigation or charge. This typically happens in fraud matters, where an alleged victim may use the civil court process to develop evidence of wrongdoing, which can be turned over to the FBI or other federal authorities. Merely because an allegation of wrongdoing has been brought in a civil court and is no guarantee that federal authorities are not monitoring the matter and waiting to arrest or indict. Careful decisions need to be made, and constitutional rights must be evaluated, before agreeing to sit for depositions or respond to document requests. The advice of a seasoned criminal lawyer in these circumstances is well taken.
If you are at risk of mail or wire fraud charges, or want to discuss whether these charges could apply to you or your company, we are here to help you. To arrange a consultation with Barnett, Bolt, Kirkwood, Long, Koche & Foster, P.A., please contact us at 813-253-2020 or firstname.lastname@example.org.