New York Mail Fraud Attorney
The mail fraud statute is probably the most popular tool federal prosecutors use in federal criminal white-collar cases. In a nutshell, the statute makes it a crime to commit any crime by using the mail. The mail fraud statute involves (1) a ”scheme to defraud,” and (2) a use of the mails ”for the purpose of executing” the scheme and carries the maximum sentence of 20 years (30 years if the fraud involved a financial institution).
Today, it is hard to imagine a federal fraud case without the mail fraud charge. The statute is designed in a way that makes it relatively easy for the government to secure conviction, which makes the mail fraud charge one of the most dangerous for the defendant.
“Use” of the Mails
Each use of the federal mails constitutes a separate offense and each mailing is a separate count in the indictment. The term “mail” includes not only USPS but also Federal Express and other commercial carriers. While each mailing constitutes a separate offense, the government is permitted to base a single count on any number of mailings. Technically, it is enough to mail anything or ”knowingly cause” anything to be mailed to be in violation of the mail fraud statute. There is a five-year statute of limitation, so if the mailing occurred more than five years earlier, no violation of the mail fraud statute may be charged even if the scheme continued to within the limitations period.
In Furtherance of the Scheme
Simply using the mails as part of a scheme to defraud is not enough to warrant a conviction of mail fraud. The mailing must be ”for the purpose of executing” or ”in furtherance of ” the scheme to defraud. In other words, there must be logical connection between the scheme and the specific mailing, meaning that the mailing should be part of the plot.
Scheme to Defraud
To prove a violation of Section 1341, the government must prove that the defendant had the specific intent to defraud, not just to have participated in an scheme. The government must show the defendant’s willful participation in a scheme with knowledge of the fraudulent nature and with the intent that the illicit objectives be achieved. The government will try to prove that the defendant was a knowing participant in the scheme to defraud. In some cases, it is not difficult to prove intent to defraud, especially where the defendant devised the scheme. In other cases the intent is less evident but the government still must prove that the defendant participated in the scheme with knowledge of the fraud.
The scheme to defraud does not have to successful. All the government needs to show is that defendant engaged in fraudulent activity intended to accomplish a deprivation of money or property, and used the mails in furtherance of the scheme.
New York Wire Fraud Lawyer
The federal wire fraud statute, 18 U.S.C. 1343, is very similar to the mail fraud statute. It criminalizes any fraud committed with the use of wire, radio, or television as long as the conduct promotes a fraudulent scheme that affects interstate or foreign commerce. Also included is the use of the Internet, telegraph, and other forms of communication.
As the mail fraud statue, the wire fraud law is extremely popular with prosecutors and it is relatively simple for the government to prove. The main distinction between the two laws is that unlike the mail fraud statute, which is triggered by any use of the mails, the wire fraud statute requires a use of the wires in interstate or foreign commerce, which makes its scope extremely wide. A simple email or telephone call to another state or another country may constitute wire fraud.
At Joseph Potashnik and Associates, our New York criminal defense attorneys have handled countless wire fraud cases in federal courts across the country.
If you are charged with federal mail fraud or wire fraud, contact the New York white collar defense attorneys at our firm for an immediate confidential consultation.