When a crime involves the United States mail or transferring illegal funds through the Internet, it can be elevated to the federal level as either mail fraud or wire fraud, which statutorily carry up to 20-30 years imprisonment. At the Law Office of Ann Fitz in West Palm Beach, FL, we recognize the nature of these serious crimes and aggressively advocate for our clients' rights.
The federal offense of mail fraud, codified at 18 U.S.C. §1341, makes it criminal for the U.S. Postal Service to be used as a vehicle to carry out any fraudulent scheme which attempts to unlawfully obtain money or valuables. This statute is often used as a basis for a separate federal prosecution of what would otherwise have been only a violation of a state law.
Examples of mail fraud include the following:
• Corporate crimes, such as embezzlement, theft, or money laundering, where a fiduciary employee of a company fraudulently writes a check to him/herself (usually under a falsified identity) and then mails the check for receipt and deposit (usually to a P.O. Box to disguise his/her address). With money laundering, a fraudulent corporation is usually set up to "launder" (or convert) money derived from an illegal activity, such as drug distribution, into money from a seemingly legal activity. How the money is distributed after it is laundered determines how the crime will be charged.
• Telephone marketing schemes, where an organization solicits large sums of money from an individual over the phone, usually to be mailed in installment payments, under the fraudulent guise that the individual has won a cash prize or other tangible reward.
• Non-delivery or misrepresentation of mail-order items, where an individual will order an item, make a payment, and never receive the item, or receive something that is defective or otherwise deficient.
• Ponzi schemes or pyramid schemes, where an individual is invited by a "chain letter" to send money to the first of a list of names and addresses before forwarding the letter to several more people. The person starting the Ponzi scheme claims to have become rich, but the people at the bottom of the pyramid receive nothing. In some cases, every address on the chain letter will be a P.O. Box controlled by the person sending the letters or by one or more accomplices.
Mail fraud is a common white collar criminal offense prosecuted by the courts because there is no specific requirement for the type of fraud or misrepresentation that has been carried out, only that something related to the scheme (such as a check, a contract, or an application for a loan or credit) was sent through the mail.
The federal crime of wire fraud is codified at 18 U.S.C. §1343, and is similar to the offense of mail fraud, except that it makes illegal any criminally fraudulent activity involving electronic communications, and requires that the electronic communications cross state lines.
Examples of traditional wire fraud schemes include false insurance claims, fraudulent investment schemes, misrepresentations in the sale of used automobiles, false application forms for loans fraudulent bond issuances, check kiting schemes, false advertising, and various bribery and kickback schemes.
At the Law Office of Ann Fitz, we can handle all aspects of your mail fraud or wire fraud case. The prosecution's obligation is to prove that you intended to commit the crime. Our job is to gather the evidence and develop a strategy to defend you.
During pre-indictment, we encourage you to STAY SILENT and not incriminate yourself in order to preserve your best options. These options depend on the strength of the government's case against you. For example, if the government's evidence is weak, we can argue for a dismissal. If the governement's evidence is strong, we can negotiate with the prosecution to plead to lesser charges in an Information that can result in a more lenient sentence. If you are charged as part of a conspiracy that committed these crimes, we can negotiate your cooperation to provide information on the leadership structure of the conspiracy in exchange for a reduced sentence. Ann Fitz has also been successful on many occasions in mitigating sentences for her clients charged with mail fraud and wire fraud based on individual circumstances. That may involve a reduction in prison time to simply house arrest.
For more information on mail fraud or wire fraud or to schedule a free initial consultation with Ann Fitz, federal criminal defense attorney in West Palm Beach, call us or contact us today.