In the United States, mail or wire fraud is any fraudulent scheme to intentionally deprive another of money, property or honest services via mail or wire communication. It has been a federal crime since 1872.

Mail or wire fraud requires three elements:

  • Intent to defraud
  • A plan or scheme to defraud
  • Use of mailing to execute defrauding plan



Mail fraud only applies to United States domestic mailings through the United States Postal Service and the use of interstate carriers such as Federal Express, UPS, or DHL. It must originate in one state and successfully be delivered to the address on the label inside another state. There are many types of mail fraud schemes, including employment fraud, financial fraud, fraud against the elderly, sweepstakes and lottery fraud, and telemarketing fraud.

Mail fraud is commonly used by the federal government as a hook to get jurisdiction over crimes they would normally not have access to. For instance, if someone were to commit a larceny and use the mail to distribute the proceeds, collect the proceeds, lure victims into the crime, or communicate with other participants, the federal government would use the mail fraud provision to gain jurisdiction over the scheme. This can result in crimes that would normally be prosecuted by the state of New York being taken over by the United States government and the US Attorney's Office.



Wire fraud is essentially the same as mail fraud excpet that it uses any electronic communication in the place of mail. This includes email, fax, bank transfers, or telephone use. Wire fraud was expanded by Congress to include foreign wire communication or interstate connections via email server, telephone switch, or radio communication. This is another charge that the federal government uses to gain jurisdiction over what would otherwise be a state crime.


If you are charged with mail or wire fraud
contact Nobles & DeCarolis at (585) 546-1260.