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Mail and Wire Fraud

NCJ Number
American Criminal Law Review Volume: 43 Issue: 2 Dated: Spring 2006 Pages: 715-738
Skye Lynn Perryman
Date Published
24 pages
This overview of Federal mail and wire fraud statutes explains the elements of a mail or wire fraud offense, available defenses against mail or wire fraud charges, jurisdictional issues in prosecutions, and sentencing.
Currently, conviction for a mail or wire fraud offense requires that the government show (beyond a reasonable doubt) that the defendant perpetrated a scheme to defraud that included a material deception with the intent to defraud while using the mails, private commercial carriers, and/or wires in furtherance of that scheme. Such action must have resulted in the loss of money or property or the deprivation of honest services. The Federal wire fraud statute further requires that the communication at issue crossed State lines. This applies only to wire fraud, however. Two defenses may be used to answer charges of mail or wire fraud. One defense is the defendant's good faith belief that allegedly fraudulent representations made were true, which undermines the prosecution's requirement to prove fraudulent intent. Another possible defense is he statute of limitations for mail and wire fraud schemes, which is generally 5 years; however, if the scheme affects a financial institution, the statute of limitations is 10 years. The statute of limitations begins running from the last overt act in furtherance of the fraudulent scheme. The discussion of jurisdictional issues focuses on where mail and wire fraud charges may be prosecuted in relation to the features of the offense. The article concludes with a discussion of the various factors in a mail or wire fraud offense that bear upon the severity of sentencing. 163 footnotes