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What Are Mail Fraud and Wire Fraud?

Mail and wire fraud are criminal offenses where the individual defrauds or conspires to defraud. They are also the most common charges brought by federal prosecutors. To convict a person of fraud, the prosecutor must show that the defendant intended to deceive or deprive a person or organization.

If you have been accused of mail or wire fraud or are concerned about the potential for an investigation, we recommend you appoint an experienced federal wire fraud defense attorney straight away. 

Strom Law’s fraud lawyers specialize in these cases and can advise on the best strategy to defend your case or disprove the allegations against you.

Mail Fraud Explained

An accusation of mail fraud is based on the use of the US mail system to encourage a person or business to part with property–that could be cash, real estate, or a non-tangible asset such as intellectual property or information.

Mail fraud has been a federal crime since 1872, and many accused parties may not have been aware that they were potentially committing a crime, with severe ramifications. Cases involving mail fraud allegations could relate to:

  • Pyramid and Ponzi schemes
  • Mail purporting to be from a government office or agency
  • Sales propaganda enticing people to engage in lotteries
  • False charities or non-profit causes
  • Falsified marketing for low-cost health insurance
  • Dishonest offers of credit

Other cases can rely on mailed circulars marketing investment products or schemes, where consumers may buy a product or pay for a service that does not exist, contravenes regulations, or is not portrayed correctly in the information provided.

Mail fraud charges can be brought if any aspect of an alleged fraud scheme includes the mail, and this does not necessarily need to be a major component. If one fraudulent document is sent via mail or a letter is perceived as a false representation, it can result in a mail fraud investigation.

Wire Fraud Explained

Wire fraud differs from mail fraud, and the primary contrast is that wire fraud is committed electronically through mediums such as email or phone calls. To prove a crime, the intention must have been to deprive somebody through illegal practices without providing any benefit.

Fraud cases include making unauthorized phone calls to solicit property or money, using fake 900 numbers, telemarketing scams, fake calls from the IRS or other government bodies, and sending unsolicited junk emails.

Either fraud involves an intention to deceive or display dishonest information, so if a person can show that they did not intentionally mislead and acted in good faith, an allegation may be disproven.

Penalties for Mail or Wire Fraud Convictions

These ‘white collar’ crimes are punishable by large fines and even prison sentences, so it is vital to seek appropriate legal representation immediately if you have been accused or are being investigated for mail or wire fraud.

The maximum sentence is twenty years in prison, and fines of up to $250,000 for an individual and double that for organizations. However, courts can also levy penalties up to double the amount the accused gained or the victim lost without an upper cap.

Convictions around mail or wire fraud that involve emergencies or disasters or a financial institution can carry heavier sentences of up to thirty years in prison and fines of up to $1 million. Courts can also impose multiple consecutive sentences if an individual is successfully prosecuted for more than one count of mail or wire fraud.

The best defense strategy will depend on the specifics of the case, but several approaches may be relevant. The starting point is to carefully analyze all the evidence used as a basis for the accusation.

What to Do if You Have Been Accused of Mail or Wire Fraud

Mail and wire fraud are serious offenses, and it is essential you appoint a skilled lawyer to advise you and evaluate the right way to manage your defense. Examples can include situations where a business relies on a third party to perform marketing activities and may not be aware that the representations made on their behalf may constitute mail fraud.

Any experienced mail and wire fraud attorney will represent your interests, identify the most suitable way forward, argue your case, and provide the best possible chance of a positive outcome where allegations are dropped, or you are proven not guilty of fraud.




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