Prosecutors may find it easier to persuade juries to convict when the charges relate to wire fraud and other offenses involving communications. If a prosecutor shows the related communications occurred, it could help to obtain a conviction.
Wire fraud involves conducting unlawful activities through Internet, phone, email or text communications. If the alleged unlawful communications involved the United States Postal Service, defendants could face mail fraud charges. Both types of fraud charges require strong defenses.
Are Wire Fraud and Mail Fraud Similar Types of Offenses?
Federal law broadly defines wire fraud and mail fraud as intentionally devising a deceptive scheme to obtain money or property from another individual. Prosecutors have a wide leeway to convict defendants because the courts have no set definitions for describing a “scheme.”
Common wire fraud and mail fraud schemes prosecutors may attempt to prove
A wire fraud scheme could include sending a series of text or email messages to entice individuals to click on a link and buy something. If the messages are printed on letters or postcards that are sent in the mail, the scheme then relates to mail fraud.
Examples of deceptive schemes a prosecutor may attempt to prove include:
- Claims of wealth: Making claims of having acquired wealth through a business or an inheritance without substantial evidence to back it up may be interpreted as fraud. If, for example, individuals relied on these declarations of wealth to purchase investments, but their money was allegedly used for other purposes, it may not prove difficult for a prosecutor to persuade a jury to convict.
- Material misrepresentation: A prosecutor may attempt to show that certain email solicitations were “spoofed,” which involves the sender’s name appearing to be from a well-known celebrity or business executive. If recipients make purchases based on a spoofed person’s reputation, the court may consider it a fraudulent scheme.
- Unfounded charitable requests: Courts often review alleged wire fraud schemes that involve phone communications from a reputable charity. During natural disasters, for example, individuals often feel more inclined to send money. A prosecutor may attempt to convince a jury that contributions solicited by phone or email were directed toward uses other than aiding disaster victims.
The language contained in the communications received may lead to allegations of fraud if it consists of false statements. Courts may interpret an unfulfilled promise to deliver something of value or to pursue a certain goal as a fraudulent scheme.
What Electronic Evidence Could Be Used To Convict Defendants of Wire Fraud?
Prosecutors may use a wide range of digital and electronic communications to persuade courts that defendants designed and executed an elaborate strategy with an alleged intent to deceive. Banner ads, images and videos published online could end up as evidence presented to the court.
Examples of evidence that might serve to prove allegedly fraudulent internet communications may include:
- Website pages: Using false names or images to claim that someone is contacting a website’s customer support team could serve as evidence when a prosecutor seeks to prove it supported a fraudulent intent.
- Online ads and social media posts: Ads found on third-party websites or social media often result in clicks leading to another website. If the website asks for confidential or financial information not fully associated with the original enticement ad, a prosecutor may assert it supports a deceptive strategy to trick people into sending money.
- Audio and video clips: Videos and audio recordings can be made quickly with mobile devices and then published on the internet. If viewers could interpret their contents as a defendant making alleged false statements as part of a scheme, the prosecution may introduce audio or video clips as evidence.
To help obtain a conviction, a prosecutor would need to use the related electronic communications to persuade the jury that the defendant intended to take money or property through deceptive means. Without proven falsehoods or misrepresentations, however, the prosecution may not have a strong enough argument to convince jurors to vote unanimously and convict. In some cases that involve an individual who was severely harmed by an alleged fraud, a prosecutor may find it easier to obtain a conviction when the evidence can stir up the jury’s emotions.
What Types of Fraud Offenses Allow Communications To Be Used as Evidence To Convict?
Because of its broad nature, wire fraud and mail fraud charges could encompass a wide range of financial offenses. Bank fraud, for example, is one of the easier charges for the prosecution to prove. A financial institution’s records could help the prosecution demonstrate discrepancies in a defendant’s financial statements.
Some of the alleged loan application fraud schemes a defendant may need to defend against include:
- Submitting records from nonexistent or closed businesses: Public records such as official filings, lawsuits and property deeds can confirm whether a business actually exists. If a business is in operation, however, it will have a verifiable physical location and filings to prove its existence.
- Falsified invoices: Revenue statements submitted with loan applications are often reviewed carefully by a bank officer or underwriter. If the reported sales volume does not match funds deposited into a business’s bank account, however, the prosecution may find it easier to persuade the court to convict on a fraud charge.
- Inflated asset values: Some loans may require pledging assets such as equipment or real estate as collateral. Providing “doctored” asset valuation statements may qualify as fraud if prosecutors can prove they were created with the intent to deceive bank officers into approving loans.
According to the Internal Revenue Service, offenses investigated by the IRS Criminal Investigation team during 2022 had a 90% conviction rate. Those convictions resulted from more than 2,500 investigations the IRS CI undertook that year. Tax fraud involves making untruthful statements when filing tax returns with the intent to lower taxpayer liabilities. Prosecutors may, for example, use information such as payroll records to persuade the jury that an employer misrepresented the number of employees to reduce taxes.
In addition to the actual taxpayer, a tax planner may also face charges of tax fraud. A subpoenaed communication between a tax planner and his or her taxpayer client could suggest an intended arrangement between the two parties to lower a tax liability by alleged evasive means.
Don’t Take Chances With Your Freedom and Reputation
Whether you are facing charges related to an alleged fraud brought by state, federal or IRS officials, you’ll need an aggressive defense to counter the claims and evidence. Even a misdemeanor fraud charge could result in lifelong consequences. When the related communications cross state lines, however, fraud offenses classify as felonies, which could result in severe penalties and long-term incarceration.
In criminal cases, the burden of proof rests with the prosecution. To obtain a conviction, the prosecution’s evidence must convince the 12 members of a jury “beyond all reasonable doubt” that an intended fraud occurred. An experienced criminal defense attorney knows how to counter a prosecutor’s claims even when written or electronic communications are used as evidence to prove an intended fraud took place.
Our knowledgeable and seasoned attorneys at Jeffcoat Carolina Defense Lawyers will review all of the details and evidence in a criminal case to develop a strategy that could bring about the best possible outcome. Don’t take chances, contact us 24/7 for a no-fee case evaluation.