Philadelphia criminal defense and civil rights attorney Lauren A. Wimmer has been selected to the 2019 Pennsylvania Rising Stars list. Each year, no more than 2.5 percent of the lawyers in the state are selected by the research team at Super Lawyers to receive this honor. Super Lawyers, a Thomson Reuters business, is a rating…
Philadelphia Mail and Wire Fraud Attorney
Protecting the Rights of Clients Facing Federal Mail or Wire Fraud Charges
When an alleged fraud crime involve the United States Postal Service (USPS), a private interstate mail carrier, or any type of electronic communication, federal prosecutors can tack on the charge of mail fraud or wire fraud. While being accused of utilizing the mail, internet, or telephone to commit a crime may not seem like a serious matter, mail and wire fraud convictions can mean up to 20 years in federal prison, or even up to 30 years under certain circumstances.
Mail fraud and wire fraud charges can increase the sentence for a fraud crime conviction or can stand alone if the prosecutor does not have enough evidence to convict you of the underlying fraud crime. In either case, it is critical that you have a skilled and aggressive federal criminal defense attorney handling your case. At Wimmer Criminal Defense Law, we have witnessed firsthand just how serious these charges can be, and we know how to design an effective defense strategy against federal criminal charges. Call today.
Federal Mail Fraud Charges
Federal criminal law prohibits anyone from using the USPS or an interstate mail service as a vehicle to commit any type of fraudulent scheme. Schemes must involve false misrepresentations and must intend to defraud someone for the wrongful gain of money or property. Some fraud offenses that may use the mail and result in mail fraud charges include:
- Solicitation schemes – These schemes involve soliciting money from someone under fraudulent terms. Some schemes promise low-cost health insurance or credit accounts for advance fees or some promise a sweepstakes prize or cash reward. Others will promise a get-rich-quick investment or work-from-home opportunity. These schemes require the victim to mail in money and then they receive no response.
- Ponzi or pyramid schemes – These involve an individual receiving a chain letter through the mail that asks them to send money to a list of names before forwarding the letter on to additional people. These schemes allow the person who started the scam to receive many large payments but leave the people at the bottom of the pyramid with nothing.
- Mail-order scams – This occurs when someone orders something through the mail, such as from a catalog, but then either receives nothing or receives an item that is worth significantly less than the expected item, or that is defective or deficient in some way.
- Corporate crimes – Many corporate white collar crimes utilize the mail system in some manner, including embezzlement, money laundering, or other complex theft schemes.
Many other mail fraud cases involve sending letters that appear to be from the government or otherwise official business, that request the recipient to fill out personal or financial information and send back. The personal information can be used for identity theft or insurance fraud, while financial information can be used for credit card fraud, bank fraud, and other financial crimes.
There is no limit on the type of fraud that must occur for a mail fraud case – only that some fraud occurred and the offender used the mail system. For this reason, mail fraud charges can arise along with a wide variety of underlying fraud charges.
Federal Wire Fraud Charges
Similar to mail fraud, wire fraud charges can apply to many different situations. For this offense, a fraud scheme must utilize any type of interstate electronic communications, which can include telephone calls, texting or messaging, internet communications, radio, and television.
People utilize wire communications – especially via smartphones or the internet – to attempt many types of fraud schemes. These can include:
- Fake investment offers
- False insurance claims
- Misrepresentations when selling items or used vehicles
- False loan or credit applications
- Check kiting schemes
- False bond issuances
- False advertising for services
- Kickback or bribery schemes
If a fraud offense involves any type of electronic communication, you can be sure the prosecutor will try to add on a wire fraud charge.
Defending against Mail and Wire Fraud Allegations
Both mail and wire fraud convictions can result in up to 20 years in prison and hefty fines, and the sentence will depend on the type and complexity of the fraud scheme, as well as whether others suffered financial harm. If a scheme involves federal disaster relief or financial institutions, the maximum prison sentence increases to 30 years. These penalties can be in addition to any penalties for the fraud crime itself. For these reasons, you should hire a skilled lawyer who understands how to defend against both the mail or wire fraud charge and any coinciding fraud charges.
When someone suffers an economic loss or appears to be the victim of fraud, federal prosecutors often aggressively pursue criminal charges. However, this does not mean that the prosecutor has sufficient evidence to prove every element of mail or wire fraud beyond a reasonable doubt. The right criminal defense attorney will know how to identify and present defenses to challenge the prosecutor’s case against you.
While specific defenses will vary from case to case depending on the circumstances, some possible defenses can include:
- You did not have the intent to defraud. In order to convict you of mail or wire fraud, prosecutors have to prove you had a knowing and willful intent to defraud someone. Unintentional or accidental actions that happen to result in someone else losing money or property do not constitute a crime.
- Misrepresentations were not material. Fraud schemes must involve a material misrepresentation to qualify as mail or wire fraud. This means one of two things: 1) a reasonable person would give weight to the misrepresentation when making their decision, or 2) you knew this specific person would give weight to the misrepresentation even if another reasonable person would not. If a mailing or wire communication included a minor falsehood that was not material, you should not be convicted of mail or wire fraud.
Your defense attorney can try to demonstrate that you acted in good faith to try to get a dismissal or acquittal of your mail or wire fraud charges.
Consult with a Philadelphia Federal Criminal Defense Attorney as Soon as Possible
You need to speak with a Philadelphia federal mail and wire fraud lawyer right away if you face charges in federal criminal court. Wimmer Criminal Defense Law regularly handles a wide range of federal crimes, including white collar and fraud crimes. If you’ve been arrested by federal authorities, call 215-712-1212 or contact us online to discuss your situation.
If you are facing a potential mail and wire fraud charges
The criminal defense attorneys of Wimmer Criminal Defense may be able to provide representation during proceedings. To schedule a free and confidential case review, call today