Facing federal wire and mail fraud charges is an intimidating and potentially life-altering experience. Convictions for these offenses carry severe penalties, including extended periods of imprisonment and very substantial fines. federal cases often involve extensive investigations and the unlimited resources of federal agencies like the FBI.
In these grave situations, it’s crucial to understand the possible defense strategies that an experienced criminal defense lawyer can use to fight these charges. This article discusses some of the most effective criminal defense tactics the best federal defense lawyers use to challenge federal wire and mail fraud allegations.
At Stechschulte Nell, Attorneys at Law, our long experience in both federal and state courts has provided us with the insight and analytical skill to identify the best defense strategy for each individual client based on the facts of their case. If you are facing federal wire or mail fraud charges, contact our office to learn more about your best defense.
Wire and Mail Fraud Laws
Wire and mail fraud statutes are federal laws that criminalize plans or schemes to defraud a person, an organization, or even a government agency by using interstate wire communications (telephone calls, texts, phone apps, emails, faxes, even TV and radio) or the U.S. mail, including other private parcel carriers.
Under federal law, the essential elements the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt include:
- The existence of a scheme to defraud another out of money or property,
- An intent to defraud,
- The use of interstate wire communications or mail as a part of the scheme.
Every wire fraud or mail fraud case presents unique facts and each person accused has an individual life history. No two cases are exactly the same. As a result, different defenses are required to effectively counter the government’s evidence and to establish doubt as to any client’s legal culpability.
Wire fraud and mail fraud crimes can be committed in an almost infinite number of ways. These are some of the most common examples:
- Internet scams
- Email phishing
- Telephone scams in which a caller claims to be collecting donations for charity by credit card
- Telemarketing scams
- Applying online or through mail for a bank loan with false information or a fake identity
- Submitting false info to an insurance company by wire or mail to get undue money or benefits
- Submitting false or exaggerated billings to government agencies (Medicare, Medicaid, VA)
- E-filing or mailing tax returns with falsified statements of income or deductions,
As you can see, these “schemes” can be engaged in by organized professional thieves or an average member of the community who submits an exaggerated damage claim to an insurance company. The defense for each accused person must be crafted to fit the facts of the alleged criminal conduct.
Effective Defenses to Wire Fraud and Mail Fraud Charges
Lack of Intent
One of the most effective defense strategies involves challenging the “intent to defraud” element. Prosecutors must prove that the defendant had a deliberate intention to deceive the victim for personal gain. Demonstrating that the actions in question were accidental, unintentional, or borne out of good faith can successfully undermine the prosecution’s case.
Experienced federal criminal defense lawyers will work to develop evidence that supports the innocent motives of the client, to establish that any misleading statements were made without knowing of the alleged victim’s confusion. If the circumstances are sufficiently supportive, skilled defense lawyers may even succeed in persuading the prosecutor that their case is weak, and that the government should abandon or reduce the charges.
Another strategy is to attack the adequacy of the evidence presented. Federal agencies often rely on documents, emails, and recorded communications. But other documents may contradict the ones the government is relying on and reveal that the defendant did inform the alleged victim of important information the victim claimed the defendant hid from them. Showing that the government’s evidence is incomplete, or misleading can often create a reasonable doubt that any fraud was committed.
Challenging the “Interstate” Element
For a charge to qualify as federal, the act must have involved interstate communication or mail. If the defense can show that all activities occurred within a single state, it might be possible to have the federal charges dropped or reduced to state charges, which often carry less severe penalties.
Statute of Limitations
Federal wire and mail fraud crime have a statute of limitations which gives usually gives the government five years from the commission of the alleged act to file a criminal charge (18 U.S.C. § 3282). If the alleged scheme involved a financial institution, the statute of limitations is ten years (18 U.S.C. § 3293). If the defense can prove that the alleged fraudulent activity occurred outside the designated timeframe, the charges may be dismissed. Note, though, that your defense lawyer must be detail oriented enough to realize the time lapse. Failure to declare a statute of limitations defense waives that defense.
In some instances, the defense can argue entrapment, which occurs when the government induces a person to commit a crime they would not have otherwise committed. This defense is complex because it requires that the defense demonstrate that the defendant only committed the offense at the prodding and encouragement of the government and its agents.
Challenging the Validity of Search Warrants
Evidence obtained through illegal searches and seizures can be challenged and excluded from the case. Federal criminal defense lawyers with years of courtroom experience and a sharp understanding of Fourth Amendment search and seizure law are especially adept at spotting the facts that indicate the police lacked probable cause to search for or seize evidence. If illegally obtained evidence can be suppressed, prosecutors may find they are unable to win a conviction.
The Role of Legal Representation
In federal wire and mail fraud cases, skilled legal representation is invaluable. Stechschulte Nell’s defense attorneys have experience in federal criminal defense, know the applicable laws, the federal courtroom procedures, and the strategies employed by federal prosecutors. The best defense lawyers scrutinize the evidence, prepare and execute aggressive cross-examination of government witnesses, and present compelling arguments in favor of their clients.
Stechschulte Nell Has Your Back
If you or a loved one is grappling with federal wire or mail fraud allegations, swift and expert legal action is paramount. Entrust your case with Stechschulte Nell, Tampa’s seasoned defense attorneys specializing in federal cases.
Call 813-280-1244 now. Ensure you’re armed with the best defense for the battle ahead.