West Palm Beach Wire Fraud Attorney
Federal criminal lawyers specializing in mail fraud cases
The federal government aggressively prosecutes frauds involving mail services or electronic communications. Criminal mail fraud or wire fraud charges are possible when an individual uses communication systems to distribute a deceptive message for financial gain or uses a communication system to transfer value derived from a fraud. Federal criminal statutes outline stiff penalties for convictions. Anyone accused of this type of crime in West Palm Beach, Florida could be vulnerable to years in prison. Reliance on a public defender may not serve a defendant as well as retaining an experienced mail and wire fraud defense attorney with the skill and resources to challenge evidence.
How mail or wire fraud occurs
The crime of fraud depends on the intentional use of deception or misrepresentation to convince someone to give up something of value, like money or property, for the benefit of another person or organization. This offense also becomes mail or wire fraud if the person committing fraud used:
- U.S. Postal Service
- any commercial delivery service
- radio or television
- telephone or fax
- text messages
- Internet messaging systems
- financial wiring services
- serious penalties for mail or wire fraud
Mail fraud and wire fraud are two separate criminal offenses. A scheme that used the mail and Internet messages could likely result in charges for both mail fraud and wire fraud. The complexities in this type of case are numerous, so it’s imperative that you retain the services of an expert fraud defense lawyer the moment you believe you might be under investigation for this type of federal crime in West Palm Beach.
What are the penalties upon conviction?
Federal sentencing authorizes the following penalties for both of these offenses:
- up to 20 years in prison
- fines up to $250,000
- restitution orders
A local real-world example from South Florida took place in 2021 when a 39-year-old man received a 13-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. On top of this, he must pay restitution for taking about $60 million from investors. WPTV news reported that he and his co-conspirators told people that his organization would match their cash investments in movie and theater productions. However, no productions were financed, and investors lost their money. The conspirators sent the money to their personal accounts and spent it on luxury goods and travel.
Do not say anything that might incriminate you. Speak with an attorney first.
Examples of mail and wire fraud
This federal criminal offense can be committed against individuals, companies, or government agencies like the Internal Revenue Service.
- fake home improvement services: A homeowner receives a flyer in the mail that offers a free inspection. If the homeowner responds to the ad, a fraudulent sales representative arrives at the home and recommends various repairs or remodeling services. After the homeowner pays, the work is never performed.
- phishing: Most people are familiar with this term that describes an internet-transmitted message, usually an email, that intends to trick people into revealing sensitive personal information. The message might pose as being from the person’s bank or credit card company and ask for account numbers, passwords, or Social Security numbers.
How the government proves mail and wire fraud
The law spells out the elements that define a crime or civil offense. Prosecutors use this framework to convict people by presenting evidence that fulfills the definition of the offense. In cases of mail and wire fraud, the government must show:
- the defendant had a plan that relied on deception.
- the defendant intended to trick people into giving up something of value.
- mail or electronic communications played a role in the fraudulent activity.
A fraudulent plan or scheme is based around an offer meant to entice someone into buying something, investing in something, or donating to a cause of some sort. An outright lie or misrepresentation of the facts distinguishes a fraud from a business deal that went awry from some other reason. Prosecutors may also cite the omission of critical information as a fraud when people would likely not have parted with their money if they had known more information.
Intention is an important element of any fraud case. Someone who did not knowingly spread bad information is not guilty of fraud. This point is important in the defense of some individuals because fraudulent schemes might involve many parties. Some of those people, like employees or contractors, might not have known that they were working with bad information.
However, the legal concept of “reckless indifference” can still expose an individual to conviction. Claims made by someone who had no access to supporting facts or any reasonable way to believe the claims can serve as the equivalent of intent.
The final element of the offense, the use of mail or electronic communications, often arises from hard evidence, such as wire transfer receipts and copies of messages. In some cases, the evidence may be vulnerable to challenge if it cannot be clearly associated with the defendant.
The role of a federal defense lawyer
An arrest on mail or wire fraud charges places a suspect in a vulnerable position. The person may try to explain what happened but only end up worsening the situation. A federal defense attorney strives to prevent this by advising a person to remain silent or limiting the exchange of information with investigators.
A lawyer may also:
- succeed at securing someone’s release on bail
- manage a counter investigation that refutes the conclusions drawn by investigators
- challenge unlawfully collected evidence
- obtain a reduction of charges
- get charges dismissed
- negotiate a plea bargain
- defend the person at trial
Legal representation is also entirely appropriate prior to an arrest. Guidance from a lawyer may shield an individual from the threat of self-incrimination. Too often people hope that cooperation will show their innocence, but law enforcement agents are suspicious by their nature and not quickly discouraged from digging for information. Asking a lawyer to manage all conversations with authorities protects a person’s rights and potentially limits what investigators can find out.
Confidential consultation about mail and wire fraud
Federal courts operate with different rules and procedures than state-level courts. Someone accused of a federal crime would therefore benefit from representation from a lawyer who specifically practices in the arena of federal defense. Joffe Law, P.A. is an established federal defense firm with a strong reputation for managing complex fraud and white collar criminal cases. If you have concerns about federal prosecution in West Palm Beach, Florida, contact our office as soon as possible.