Florida Criminal Defense: An Introduction to Mail and Wire Fraud

If you have a PayPal account, you’ve probably gotten emails with warning headers like “Security Breach on Your Account” or “Act Now or Your Account Will Be Deactivated.” These communications are not really from PayPal: they are intended to make you panic, log into your “account” via a false website, and unwittingly give your login credentials to a cyber-thief who will lock you out of your own account and empty any balance. It’s a classic example of wire fraud that has fooled hundreds, if not thousands, of people.

Mail and wire fraud is a broad term that covers any scheme that is:

  • Sent via mail or wire
  • Intended to deprive someone else of money or assets using fraudulent means

Examples include investment scams, “foreign inheritance” emails, and Ponzi schemes.

Mail and Wire Fraud Explained

Mail Fraud uses the U.S. mail or a private mail carrier to defraud someone of money, property, or what are referred to as “honest services” (such bribing a public servant). All cases of mail fraud are prosecuted by the Department of Justice, although federal investigative agencies such as the IRS or FBI may initiate the investigation.

If you are convicted of mail fraud, the penalties are substantial. You can spend up to 20 years in a federal prison and be ordered to pay a hefty fine. If you defrauded a financial institution, the maximum punishment increases to 30 years in prison and a $1,000,000 fine or more could be ordered.

Wire fraud is similar to mail fraud, but instead of the mail being used to further the fraudulent scheme, it uses the phone, fax, email, and other electronic communications to carry out a fraudulent scheme. Practically all forms of wire fraud are prosecuted at the federal level because it tends to cross state lines. The law also includes special provisions for wire fraud that directly impacts any American financial institution or pertains to a state of disaster or emergency. The potential penalties are the same as a mail fraud conviction.

A Few Things to Bear in Mind

  • Each fraudulent communication sent by mail or wire is considered a separate fraud count.
  • You can be charged with aiding and abetting mail or wire fraud if you knowingly send the communications on someone else’s behalf, even if you do not personally benefit from them.

If you are being investigated for mail or wire fraud charges, contact the Law Office of Barry M. Wax today. We are thorough and aggressive when it comes to federal white collar defense, and will ensure that your rights and protections are not compromised during the investigation or any proceedings that may arise later.

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Written by Law Offices of Barry M. Wax

Law Offices of Barry M. Wax

For 32 years, I have provided both State- and Federal-Level representation for those facing charges ranging from wire fraud, mortgage fraud, and healthcare fraud to identity theft, drug trafficking, money laundering, murder, DUI, domestic violence and numerous other criminal charges. In every case, it is my commitment to one-on-one service and support that has separated the Law Offices of Barry M. Wax from other criminal defense firms. When it comes to your future, you need a strong defense and the ability to make the right choices and regain control of your life.