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Someone convicted of wire or mail fraud faces serious penalties. However, it is not required to actually complete a fraudulent act in order to be convicted of federal fraud charges. This is because it is possible to be charged with a conspiracy to commit wire or mail fraud, which is also punishable by fines and jail time. If you have been charged with a conspiracy to commit fraud, it is important to contact a wire and mail fraud attorney who can help you formulate a strong defense.
What Is Mail Fraud?
Mail fraud is when you use the United States mail system as a vehicle to entice customers to give you their money, property or other belongings by using false statements, misrepresentations or by concealing certain facts from them.
Some examples of mail fraud include Ponzi or pyramid schemes related to work-at-home opportunities, fake job opportunities or mystery shopping strategies. Other lures include vacation scams, sweepstakes and lottery fraud, government “look-alike” mail, credit card scams, fraud regarding a phony inheritance and schemes involving convincing individuals to invest in get-rich-quick projects, such as oil or gas commodities, purchasing land or other types of investment opportunities. Some other examples involve brochures offering services for unusually low prices or notices asking for payment for a free service, such as putting your name on the Do- Not-Call Registry. These schemes use the mail in some form to persuade people to provide personal information and send money.
An individual can still be charged with mail fraud even if they never got any money or property from the scheme. Likewise, you can be charged even if the intended victim never suffered any damages or loss. The scheme does not have to succeed for the defendant to be held criminally liable. Even playing a small role in a fraudulent scheme, or attempting to defraud can result in serious criminal charges.
Conspiracy To Commit Mail Fraud
Even if a person did not actually go through with the fraudulent act required of a mail fraud conviction, he or she can still be charged with a conspiracy to commit fraud.
They can be charged only if there is evidence establishing that:
- There was an agreement between two or more people to commit fraud using wire or mail communications
- At least one of the parties to the agreement overtly acted to follow through with the plan.
Even if a person did not take the overt action, he or she can still be charged with conspiracy. Under federal law, it is enough that a defendant knowingly joined a conspiracy in which use of the mail or electronic communication could have furthered the conspiracy and that at least one of the parties involved took an overt action. In fact, once a defendant’s participation in a conspiracy has officially been established, the defendant will be considered guilty of any acts committed by his or her alleged partners, even if the overt act failed. It is also not necessary for someone alleged to be a co-conspirator to know the rest of the conspirators in order to be considered part of the group.
Conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud is usually tried at the federal level. Unfortunately, this means that those who are convicted of federal conspiracy to commit fraud face much harsher punishments, as a convicted defendant could be required to pay fines of up to $250,000 and spend up to 20 years in prison.
Being convicted of a conspiracy to commit fraud can result in punishments as severe as if the individual had actually committed the fraudulent act. With so much at stake, it is critical for those who have been charged with this type of crime to speak with a dedicated wire and mail fraud attorney who can protect their interests.
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What Is Wire Fraud?
Wire fraud is similar to mail fraud because the goal is to obtain property, services or money illegally without benefiting the consumer. It differs from mail fraud because it is done via the telephone or on electronic communication such as email, a fax, a phone call, a text message, or the use of an internet chat room.
Wire fraud includes almost any crime that is fraud-based including but not limited to mortgage fraud, insurance fraud, tax fraud, identity theft, sweepstakes, and lottery fraud and telemarketing fraud.
The majority of wire fraud crimes are committed using a practice known as ‘phishing.’ This is where a person is contacted by email, telephone or text message by someone posing as a legitimate institution to lure that individual into providing sensitive data such as personally identifiable information, banking and credit card details, and passwords. For example, an individual may receive an email from Amazon (or another company you do business with) asking you to update your financial information. Or someone calls and tells you that you have won a prize, but you need to provide personal information like a social security number and date of birth in order to claim your price. Once that person provides that information, it is often used to access that person’s financial institution accounts, including credit cards and remove funds.
Mail and Wire Fraud Charges Can Be Serious
If you live in Florida, or any other state, and are being investigated for fraud, please contact Jeffrey S. Weiner, P.A., at 786 516-2275 to schedule a meeting with an experienced Miami white collar crime attorney who can evaluate your case. If you are facing charges for wire and mail fraud, our skilled lawyers can help guide you through the legal process.
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