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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Mail and Wire Fraud: An Abridged Overview of Federal Criminal Law

Charles Doyle
Senior Specialist in American Public Law

It is a federal crime to devise a scheme to defraud another of property, when either mail or wire communications are used in furtherance of the scheme, 18 U.S.C. 1341, 1343. Mail or wire fraud includes schemes to defraud another of honest services, when the scheme involves bribery or a kick back, 18 U.S.C. 1346; Skilling v. United States, 130 S.Ct. 2896 (2010). In order to convict, the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant (1) used either mail or wire communications in the foreseeable furtherance, (2) of a scheme to defraud, (3) involving a material deception, (4) with the intent to deprive another of, (5) either property or honest services.

Offenders face the prospect of imprisonment for not more than 20 years, a fine of not more than $250,000 (not more than $500,000 for organizations), an order to pay victim restitution, and the confiscation of any property realized from the offense.

Misconduct that constitutes mail or wire fraud may also constitute a violation of one or more other federal crimes. Principal among these are predicate offense crimes, frauds based on jurisdictional factors other than use of mail or wire communications, and other honest services frauds in the form of bribery or kickbacks. The other federal bribery and kickback offenses include bribery of public officials, federal program bribery, extortion under color of official right, and Medicare/Medicaid kickbacks. Mail and wire fraud are money laundering and racketeering predicate offenses. Numbered among the fraud offenses based on other jurisdiction grounds are the false claims and false statement offenses, bank fraud, health care fraud, securities fraud, and foreign labor contracting fraud.

This is an abridged version of CRS Report R41930, Mail and Wire Fraud: A Brief Overview of Federal Criminal Law, by Charles Doyle, without the footnotes, appendix, quotation marks, or citations to authority found in the longer version. Related CRS reports include CRS Report R40852, Deprivation of Honest Services as a Basis for Federal Mail and Wire Fraud Convictions, by Charles Doyle.

Date of Report: July 21, 2011
Number of Pages: 13
Order Number: R41931
Price: $29.95

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