Federal Mail and Wire Fraud
Fraud is one of the most frequently prosecuted federal crimes. Two of the most common specific forms of this charge are mail fraud and wire fraud.
The definitions for these two offenses can be defined quite broadly, and it is not unusual for either one to be pursued on top of other underlying charges. If a person is convicted of mail fraud or wire fraud, the consequences can be quite severe, with penalties possibly including decades in prison and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.
Houston Mail Fraud Lawyer
If you have been charged with or are under investigation for wire fraud or mail fraud, you should immediately seek the help of an experienced Texas criminal defense attorney. Horak Law represents clients in Houston and surrounding communities in Harris County, Montgomery County, Fort Bend County, Waller County, Liberty County, Galveston County, and Brazoria County.
Matt Horak is admitted to practice in courts in all of these counties as well as federal U.S. District Courts in the Southern District of Texas. Our firm can review your case to help you understand your legal options when you call (713) 225-8000 or toll-free at (800) 225-8009 to take advantage of a confidential consultation.
Harris County Wire and Mail Fraud Overview
- What is involved in a mail fraud offense?
- What are the elements of a wire fraud case?
- Which kinds of punishments can a person face if convicted?
- Are there any defenses against these charges?
Title 18 U.S. Code § 1341 defines mail fraud as being any person having devised or intending to devise any scheme to defraud or obtaining money or property by means of false or fraudulent pretenses with any article sent through any United States Postal Service post office or other authorized depository for mail matter. Authorized depositories include private commercial interstate mail carriers like FedEx or the United Parcel Service (UPS).
Essentially, any mail fraud conviction will require proving these four elements:
- The alleged offender had a scheme to defraud
- The scheme involved deception or a material misrepresentation of the truth
- The alleged offender had an intent to defraud another party of money, property, or honest services
- A mail service was used in the scheme to defraud
The term "honest services" was typically assumed to apply to elected officials who breached their duties to the public through corruption or bribery, but the term can be broadly defined as other intangible damages.
The federal crime of wire fraud is defined under Title 18 U.S. Code § 1343. It involves many of the same elements as a mail fraud offense, with the primary difference being the method in which the fraud to scheme was conducted.
Instead of a mail service, charges of wire fraud typically involve messages being transmitted through one of the following forms of communication:
- Fax machine
- Other internet communications
It is important to understand that each act of wire fraud is treated as a separate offense. This means that if a person sends 25 emails to a victim as part of the alleged scheme, he or she will be charged with 25 counts of wire fraud.
A conviction on any wire fraud or mail fraud offense can result in some very stiff punishments, including:
- Fines — A single count of mail fraud or wire fraud can lead to a fine of up to $250,000. However, fines of up to $1 million per offense are possible if the scheme involved a presidentially declared major disaster or emergency or the victim was a financial institution.
- Prison — A person may be sentenced to up to 20 years in federal prison for each offense, but the maximum sentence is 30 years per offense if the fraud involved financial institutions or a presidentially declared major disaster or emergency.
Additionally, some convictions can also result in orders to pay restitution to victims in addition to fines paid to the court.
If you are facing charges or under investigation for wire fraud or mail fraud, some of the possible defenses that may apply to your case include, but are not limited to:
- Constructive Fraud — Nondisclosure or failure to provide information because of negligence rather than scheme to defraud
- Evidentiary Issues — Evidence that was mishandled or illegally obtained may be suppressed
- Good Faith — There was no intent to defraud
- Lack of Injury — Alleged victim did not suffer any loss of money, property, or honest services
- Puffery — Exaggerated statements made as part of a sales pitch do not qualify as an intent to defraud
- Unrelated Communication — The wire or mail transmission cannot be connected to a scheme to defraud
Horak Law - A Federal Wire Fraud Lawyer in Houston
Matt Horak fights to obtain the most favorable outcomes for clients all over the greater Houston area who have been accused of federal crimes. He also represents clients in Spring, Pasadena, The Woodlands, Conroe, Missouri City, Sugar Land, Richmond-Rosenberg, Pearland, League City, and Galveston in addition to many other Texas cities.
Horak Law can thoroughly investigate the evidence against you and work to get your charges reduced or dismissed. Call (713) 225-8000 or toll-free at (800) 225-8009 today to let our firm provide a complete evaluation of your case during a free legal consultation.