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Mail and Wire Fraud: A Brief Overview of Federal Criminal Law Updated

Via FAS – Mail and Wire Fraud: A Brief Overview of Federal Criminal Law Updated, February 11, 2019.

“The mail and wire fraud statutes are exceptionally broad. Their scope has occasionally given the courts pause. Nevertheless, prosecutions in their name have brought to an end schemes that have bilked victims out of millions, and sometimes billions, of dollars. The statutes proscribe (1) causing the use of the mail or wire communications, including email; (2) in conjunction with a scheme to intentionally defraud another of money or property; (3) by means of a material deception. The offenses, along with attempts or conspiracies to commit them, carry a term of imprisonment of up to 30 years in some cases, followed by a term of supervised release. Offenders also face the prospect of fines, orders to make restitution, and forfeiture of their property. The mail and wire fraud statutes overlap with a surprising number of other federal criminal statutes. Conduct that supports a prosecution under the mail or wire fraud statutes will often support prosecution under one or more other criminal provision(s). These companion offenses include (1) those that use mail or wire fraud as an element of a separate offense, like racketeering or money laundering; (2) those that condemn fraud on some jurisdictional basis other than use of the mail or wire communications, like those that outlaw defrauding the federal government or federally insured banks; and (3) those that proscribe other deprivations of honest services (i.e., bribery and kickbacks), like the statutes that ban bribery of federal officials or in connection with federal programs. Among the crimes for which mail or wire fraud may serve as an element, RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) outlaws employing the patterned commission of predicate offenses to conduct the affairs of an enterprise that impacts commerce. Money laundering consists of transactions involving the proceeds of a predicate offense in order to launder them or to promote further predicate offenses…”

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