Types of Criminal Defense Cases Protass Law PLLC Handles
View More

Understanding Mail and Wire Fraud

People have been known to employ all sorts of schemes to commit fraud. But the stakes are higher when such a scheme uses the U.S. Mail or interstate telecommunications channels. By their very nature, these offenses will always run the risk of federal charges. And a conviction for federal mail or wire fraud can carry a hefty penalty. Your best strategy for fighting mail or wire fraud charges, and your best bet for obtaining a favorable outcome, starts with the hiring of an experienced and knowledgeable federal wire fraud attorney to represent you.

At Protass Law PLLC, attorney Harlan Protass has more than 20 years of experience representing individuals accused of every form of fraud. He has extensive knowledge regarding the relevant laws, and is adept at developing strategies to defend your rights. To schedule a free consultation of your case with an NYC criminal defense lawyer, call (212) 455-0335 today, or reach out through the online form.

Federal Statutes on Mail and Wire Fraud and Conspiracy to Commit Those Offenses

Criminal fraud involves using deception or other misconduct to obtain financial gain from another person. It’s a broad term covering a wide array of schemes. But, to prove any fraud, a prosecutor must establish the existence of a scheme or artifice to defraud or to obtain money or property by materially false and fraudulent pretenses, representations or promises and knowing or willful participation in the scheme or artifice to defraud, with knowledge of its fraudulent nature and with the specific intent to defraud.

Wire and mail fraud are two broad categories of fraud. In addition to a scheme or artifice to defraud combined with an intent to defraud, wire fraud - 18 U.S.C. § 1343 - requires proof that an individual uses the phone or any other means of electronic communication, such as e-mail or a fax machine, to commit a fraudulent act. Likewise, mail fraud - 18 U.S.C. § 1341 - requires proof that an individual used the U.S. Mail or a commercial delivery service, such as UPS or FedEx, to commit a fraudulent act by placing any communication, item or other matter in the U.S. Mail or otherwise sending one privately.

Conspiring to commit wire or mail fraud - 18 U.S.C. § 371 - is also a stand-alone crime itself. It is also a broad crime that can sweep up a whole host of conduct and are often difficult to defend. A conspiracy conviction can be obtained through the presentation of evidence that two people agreed to defraud others via the mails or electronic communications and that one of those people makes or takes some overt act in furtherance of the conspiratorial agreement. Proof of a conspiracy doesn’t require a written agreement between co-conspirators; rather, prosecutors can prove a conspiracy just by proving that two people were working together to commit some crime using the U.S. Mail or an electronic communications device.

Courts have even held that persons can be in a conspiracy with others even if they never meet or interact as long as they knew the other person was doing something to further the conspiracy. And, once you’ve joined a conspiracy, you can be held responsible for all of the acts of your co-conspirators, whether or not you knew those acts were going to be undertaken. Indeed, even a minor participant can be swept up in the same case as someone much more responsible for the criminal conduct.

Penalties for Federal Wire and Mail Fraud Convictions

It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what punishment you might face for a mail or wire fraud conviction. Any penalty for such an offense will depend on the details, such as the nature of the underlying fraud scheme, the amount of money involved and your involvement as an individual. But the statutory maximums are known - up to 20 years in prison.

Harsher consequences apply if your fraudulent activities involve a financial institution or are related to a presidentially declared major disaster or emergency. Under those circumstances, you could face up to 30 years imprisonment.

How a Federal Wire Fraud Lawyer Can Help

Difficult as they are to defend, having an experienced and knowledgeable attorney in your corner is critical to fighting against criminal charges of mail or wire fraud. They can help challenge the prosecutor’s general theory of the case. A skilled legal professional can also attack the evidence on each and every element of the crime that prosecutors must prove, such as arguing that:

  • You lacked an intent to defraud
  • Your statements were truthful, not false or misleading
  • No one relied on what you said
  • And, if all else fails, argue that the evidence doesn’t prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Simply put, a defense against charges of wire or mail fraud is about raising questions in the minds of the judge or jury.

Set up a Consultation with a Federal Wire Fraud Attorney Today

If you’re under investigation or have already been arrested for mail or wire fraud, reach out to an experienced lawyer at Protass Law PLLC right away. Attorney Harlan Protass can get started on a defense strategy right immediately upon reviewing the circumstances of your case. To schedule a free and confidential consultation, contact us today at (212) 455-0335.