How does Fraud Become a Federal Crime?
The concept of fraud is a simple one. Any time someone takes an action that is designed to trick someone else out of their rights to property, they commit an act of fraud. Fraud can be both a civil and a criminal action. However, as a Syracuse federal fraud attorney could further explain, the incidents of fraud that can lead to a federal prosecution are extremely limited.
This is because the federal government can only pass laws that concern areas specifically named in the U.S. Constitution. One of these areas is interstate commerce. Communications lines cross over state borders and as such may be regulated by the federal government. Because many people commit frauds by using the internet, phone lines, or the mail, the federal government can create laws that punish this specific behavior.
Specific Federal Fraud Charges
18 U.S.C. §1343 states that it is illegal for any person to commit a fraud by using a wire or telephone communication. Courts have ruled that the use of the internet counts as a wire communication for the purposes of this statute. Therefore, a person who uses phishing emails to solicit false donations could be charged at the federal level with committing wire fraud. A conviction under this statute can be punished by stiff fines and a prison term of up to twenty years.
Similar provisions make it illegal to use the mail to perpetuate a fraud. 18 U.S.C. §1341 states that a person cannot use the services of the post office to deliver materials used to commit a fraud. This can include both mailing out letters to ask for money under a false premise or mailing packages that do not contain what the customer reasonably believes they should. The possible penalties for a conviction here are identical to those for wire fraud.