Mail/Wire Fraud Statutes

In every criminal prosecution in the United States, the government has to prove certain elements contained within the criminal statute being prosecuted. In order to support a federal wire or mail fraud conviction the prosecution must show that the defendant intentionally used or caused to be used the United States postal service (Mail Fraud) or interstate wire communications (Wire Fraud) in the foreseeable furtherance of a scheme to deprive another of money, property, or honest services.

In some jurisdictions, the scheme or artifice must be shown to involve a MATERIAL deception and the perpetrator must have possessed the SPECIFIC INTENT to deprive the victim of money or property, whether the deprivation ever actually occurred.

The Federal Mail Fraud and Wire Fraud Statutes are filled with complications with their application arising from the morass of conflicting rules and elements created by the federal courts in interpreting the statute. Some courts have held that the scheme to defraud must be in violation of state law, for example, while others have held that a mere breach of a duty owed to another can be enough to create a deprivation that qualifies for prosecution.

These statutes outline single offenses that can be committed in more than one way. The line between tort and crime in this area can appear arbitrarily drawn and hard to ascertain, and much of these statutes’ applicability is better explained by history than logic.