Wire fraud and mail fraud are two types of serious white-collar crimes that are prosecuted by the federal government. The FBI defines white-collar crime as “. . . those illegal acts which are characterized by the deceit, concealment or violation of trust and which are not dependent upon the application or threat of physical force or violence. Individuals and organizations commit these acts to obtain money, property or services; to avoid the payment or loss of money or services; or to secure personal or business advantage.”
Although the mediums of mail and wire fraud are different, the end goals are the same: to deceitfully attempt to obtain money or property. Wire fraud is any fraudulent activity performed by a person or organization acting under false pretenses that takes place over interstate wires, including television, radio, telephone and computers. An example of wire fraud is dishonest telemarketers who ask people to wire money for purposes other than those they advertise for. Mail fraud is a federal crime in which the perpetrator develops a scheme using the U.S. mail system to defraud another of money or property. Mail fraud typically involves a person or company obtaining money or anything of value from a victim by offering a product, service or investment opportunity that doesn’t live up to claims.
To be found guilty of wire fraud, it must first be proven that you knowingly and willfully devised a scheme to defraud, or for the purpose of obtaining money or property by means of false pretenses, representations or promises. Secondly, you must have also knowingly transmitted or caused to be transmitted by wire in interstate commerce some sound for the purpose of executing the scheme to defraud. When being prosecuted it is not necessary that the Government prove the entire nature of your case, such as the success of the scheme or whether or not what was being wired was fraudulent. It must only be proven that you knowingly attempted the scheme under false pretenses for financial purposes or to gain property.
In order for a case to be considered mail fraud, there must be two elements present: the facts surrounding the offer were intentionally misrepresented, and the U.S. Mail was relied on to carry out the scheme.
Federal criminal lawyer, Robert Barnes of Barnes Law LLP writes that wire fraud is almost always prosecuted as a federal crime, and a conviction of wire fraud has a punishment of up to 20 years in prison. If the victim of the fraud is a financial institution there may be an implemented $1,000,000 fine and a sentence of 30 years in prison. Penalties for those convicted of mail fraud include a fine and/or imprisonment for no more than 5 years for each violation, and a $250,000 fine. The punishment increases if the mail fraud was aimed at a financial institution. The statute states that “the person shall be fined not more than $1,000,000 and/or imprisoned not more than 30 years.