Any criminal activity that involved the United States mail or electronic/digital communications is considered Mail or Wire Fraud. This includes the use of mail, television, radio or the internet in order to transmit false promises or advertisements to the public. Penalties may be up to $1,000,000 and 30 years in prison.
Mail fraud refers to any scheme which attempts to unlawfully obtain money or valuables in which the postal system is used at any point in the commission of a criminal offense. Mail fraud is a legal concept in the United States Code which can provide for increased penalty of any criminally fraudulent activity if it is determined that the activity involved used the United States Postal Service. 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. Prosecution under the mail fraud statute must prove beyond a reasonable doubt:
- That the statement is false;
- That it was made with the intention it should be relied on;
- That it was made for the purpose of securing money or property;
- That the statement was delivered by mail;
- That money or property was obtained by means of the false statement.
Wire fraud provides for enhanced penalty of any criminally fraudulent activity if it is determined that the activity involved electronic communications of any kind, at any phase of the event. As in the case of mail fraud, 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.
The crime of wire fraud is codified at 18 U.S.C. § 1343, and reads as follows:
- "Whoever, having devised or intending to devise any scheme or artifice to defraud, or for obtaining money or property by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises, transmits or causes to be transmitted by means of wire, radio, or television communication in interstate or foreign commerce, any writings, signs, signals, pictures, or sounds for the purpose of executing such scheme or artifice, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both. If the violation affects a financial institution, such person shall be fined not more than $1,000,000 or imprisoned not more than 30 years, or both."