Federal Mail and Wire Fraud Laws

What is Mail Fraud?

Fraudulent misrepresentations and schemes to defraud which use the United States mail to further that fraudulent conduct, can be prosecuted as “mail fraud.”

Federal Mail and Wire Fraud

The federal mail and wire fraud statutes cover most any type of fraud that in some way uses the “mail” or “wire.” “Mail” includes not only the United States Postal Service but also any mailings sent through a private commercial carrier. “Wire” includes the use of a telephone, television, radio, internet, computer or other communication device. To prove mail or wire fraud, a prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a defendant somehow used the mail or other communication device to perpetrate a scheme with the intent to commit fraud. Frequently, mail and wire fraud charges are used in conjunction with more specific type of fraud charges, such as bank fraud or insider trading.

Originally, the mail fraud statute required some type of use of the U.S. mail; now, the statute requires the use of either the U.S. mail or any mail carrier in an attempt to carry out the fraud.

Frauds and Swindles

The United States Code contains federal crimes that are prosecuted by the Department of Justice or its field offices, the United States Attorney’s Offices, in respective districts in the different states. 18 USC §1341, is titled Frauds and Swindles, and it is commonly referred to as the “mail fraud” statute. 18 USC §1341. reads as follows (in summary):

MAIL FRAUD is defined as “Whoever

  1. having devised, or intending to devise any scheme or artifice to defraud, or
  2. for obtaining money or property by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises, or to sell, dispose of, loan…
  3. something of value or some item…and
  4. places in any post office or authorized depository for mail matter
  5. any item to be delivered by interstate carrier shall be fined.…or imprisoned for not more than 20 years, or both.