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What is The Difference Between Wire and Mail Fraud?

Both mail and wire fraud are federal offenses. They are both serious charges that carry serious penalties, but there are distinctions between the two that it’s useful to understand. If you’re facing a wire or mail fraud charge, it’s time to consult with a dedicated Nashville criminal defense attorney who has an impressive range of experience successfully handling these challenging cases.

The Basic Elements

The crime of mail fraud refers to using the U.S. Postal Service – or any private carrier, such as FedEx or UPS – to engage in a scheme to defraud others. Wire fraud, on the other hand, refers to a similar engagement in fraud, but it involves using electronic communications, such as the Internet or phone lines.

Mail Fraud

For the charge of mail fraud to apply, the accused must have used the mail to further their scheme. As such, the act of mailing materials must have been an integral part of the fraud itself – rather than an incidental component. For example, if someone is running an illegal Ponzi scheme – which is a form of investment fraud that collects funds from new investors and pays them to existing investors without doing any actual investing – that solicits investors through the mail, it’s a form of mail fraud.

For a mail fraud charge to stick, each of the following elements must apply:

  • The accused was engaged in a scheme to defraud others.
  • The scheme included misstatements or errors of a material nature.
  • The scheme resulted in – or would have resulted in had it been completed – the loss of money, honest services, or property.
  • The accused used the U.S. Postal Service to further their scheme to defraud.

A conviction for mail fraud can carry a federal prison sentence of up to 20 years. If, however, the fraud relates to a financial institution or to a disaster or emergency declared by the president, the sentence is enhanced to up to 30 years in prison – with fines of up to $1,000,000.

Wire Fraud

Wire fraud involves the same elements as mail fraud, but the method of communication is electronic rather than through the mail. If the person running that Ponzi scheme is soliciting investors online, it’s a form of wire fraud. Further, there is nothing stopping a crime from qualifying as both mail and wire fraud – such as if our Ponzi operator solicited investments through the mail and online.

The fines and penalties for wire fraud mirror those for mail fraud.

An Experienced Nashville Criminal Defense Attorney Is on Your Side

Andrew Beasley at Andrew C. Beasley, PLLC, in Nashville, is a formidable criminal defense attorney whose background in prosecution affords him an advantageous perspective when it comes to skillfully defending his valued clients against criminal charges, including federal mail and wire fraud charges. For more information about what we can do to help you, please don’t hesitate to reach out and contact us online or call us at 615-620-5803 today.

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