Any criminal activity that involved the United States mail or electronic/digital communications (internet), or both, is considered Mail or Wire Fraud. Many acts that fall under this definition actually use mail, television, radio, or the internet to transmit false or fraudulent promises or advertisements to the unsuspecting public. The Federal Government deals harshly with this violation, being able to imprison an individual for up to 20 years.
To prove mail or wire fraud under 18 U.S.C. §§1341, 1343, the prosecution must prove the following:
- There was a scheme to defraud by materially false and fraudulent representations;
- The defendant(s) knowingly and willfully participated in the scheme to defraud, with knowledge of its fraudulent nature and with the specific intent to defraud; and
- In execution of that scheme, the defendant used or caused the use of the mails or wires.
In essence, whenever a person engages in a criminal activity which requires the use of mail or wire communications (internet or telephone), the Government can, and usually does, charge the crime of Mail and Wire Fraud. As an Example, in cases involving Ponzi Schemes, the use of the internet or US mail to send clients’ their statements or reports triggers a violation of this particular law. Mail and Wire Fraud has such a broad definition that almost all types of White Collar offenses can also fall within the scope of the Mail and Wire Fraud law.