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Mail fraud may seem like a nebulous area of the law, but in fact, strict laws against mail and wire fraud have been in place in the United States since the 1870’s. As explained on LegalDictionary.net, from small schemes to large criminal enterprises, any attempt to defraud an individual, group or corporation that utilizes the mail or wire system constitutes mail and wire fraud which is a serious crime with serious repercussions. In the US, mail fraud includes the United States Postal Service, UPS, and FedEx, and must originate in one state and terminate in another to constitute the crime of mail fraud.
Broadly defined by 18 U.S. Code, Section 1341, mail fraud schemes can carry heavy penalties along with a conviction. FindLaw.com includes such possible penalties as fines and imprisonment of up to 20 years; in certain cases involving benefits related to a presidentially declared disaster or emergency, the fines may be up to $1 million and imprisonment of up to 30 years. With such stringent laws and potentially severe penalties, persons accused of mail fraud should immediately consult with a knowledgeable attorney. Because of the steep penalties, mail fraud charges are commonly pursued by federal prosecutors, including the FBI. Frequently, these charges are raised when the prosecution team is unable to prove any other charges that they have been pursuing.
Of course, famous mail fraud cases abound, and often as the cautionary tale of one charge that prosecution could pursue when other charges were murky. In Ponzi vs. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service, ultimately the criminal for whom the Ponzi Scheme was named was imprisoned for five years due to the fact that he used the mail service to encourage his “investors” (who were his victims) to reinvest. Without the commission of the mail fraud crime, prosecutors had a difficult time pinning Ponzi down to a case that could go to court. Similarly, in the HealthSouth accounting scandal, Richard Scrushy was acquitted of the crimes of falsifying nearly $3 billion in profits and defrauding Medicare of over $300 million. However, he was convicted of mail fraud, for which he was required to serve nearly seven years in prison.
So, mail and wire fraud charges and subsequent court case instances may be on the rise, particular as internet and electronic transmissions such as the internet and email have come to be included in the definition of wire transactions (United States Department of Justice) and the fact that the charge has become a comfortable catch all when federal agents are pursuing other fraud charges that are difficult to prove. However, those accused of mail fraud need not despair. Attorneys who specialize in mail and wire fraud cases understand the nuances of the law, including that the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt all of the elements of the crime. There are several proven defense strategies that have historically been effective in successfully fighting mail fraud charges, and your mail fraud attorney can work with your specific case and circumstances to develop a strategy that gives you the best advantages in court.
Long Island itself has had numerous mail and wire fraud cases in recent years that made national headlines, bringing the topic to the forefront of legal discussions in both academic and practical circles. Even pop culture figures, such as the “Real Housewives of New Jersey” cast members Teresa and Joe Giudice were found guilty of mail and wire fraud and sentenced to 15 months in prison with over $400,000 in restitution penalties. Criminal defense lawyers in Long Island are able to study these cases to learn strategies, and to build compelling case law to present as part of strong defense against mail and wire fraud charges.
While there are no guarantees in the court of law, mail and wire fraud is a serious charge with potentially serious penalties. Certainly, it is not a charge that should be defended by an attorney that does not have specific expertise and experience in handling such complicated cases. If you should find yourself in a position where you are facing such charges, contact a qualified professional mail and wire fraud attorney immediately to begin working on your best and strongest defense strategy.