Fraud

Courts throughout the United States have historically been reluctant to rigidly define "fraud." According to the "Modern Federal Jury Instructions," human beings are so inventive that they are perpetually capable of inventing new schemes to take advantage of others. The fear is that if fraud is rigidly defined then someone will simply come up with a new scheme that skirts the actual definition. Then the person would be found not guilty of that fraud even though his conduct still "feels" like a fraud. Congress has for the same reasons been reticent to define the term. As a result, prosecutors throughout the United States have taken their prosecutions to new levels because absent a rigid definition, they are capable of calling all sorts of behavior "fraudulent."

Perhaps a good definition comes from Code of Federal Regulations Section 42. There, the term fraud is defined as "an internal deception or misrepresentation made by a person with the knowledge that the deception could result in some unauthorized benefit to himself or to some other person. It includes any act that constitutes fraud under applicable Federal or State law." It seems that a good way to think about fraud is to think about it in terms of a larceny in which the means of stealing the money or property is not by force (like in a robbery), but by deception. It is a trick to get someone to give you his property and but for that trick, the person never would have given it to you.

If you take the concept of fraud and add certain mechanisms to achieve that fraud, then you could be in violation of the United States Code and you could be facing federal prosecution. For example, if you use the U.S. Postal service to achieve your fraud, then you are committing mail fraud, which can be punishable by up to 20 years in prison. If you use a wire for the transmission of the funds, then you are committing wire fraud, etc. Below are some of the common examples of fraud that the federal government prosecutes.

If you, or a loved, is being prosecuted for any federal fraud crime, do not hesitate to contact John Buza, an experienced lawyer, immediately for a free consultation.

  • Mail Fraud
Mail fraud is defined by 18 U.S.C. 1341. Mail fraud essentially occurs when a person uses the U.S. Postal Service to effectuate a fraud. For example, if a person uses the mail system to advertise a new stock that the mail recipients should purchase, but it turns out that the stock is really a part of a "Ponzi scheme," then the person is committing, among other things, mail fraud. Mail fraud is a very serious crime and is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. If the mail fraud affects a financial institution, then it is punishable by up to 30 years in prison.

For the government to prevail in their prosecution against someone for mail fraud, they need to prove the following three elements. They need to prove:
  1. the person knowingly devised or participated in the scheme to defraud or to obtain money or property by false pretenses, representations, or promises;
  2. the person did so knowingly and with the intent to defraud; and
  3. for the purpose of carrying out the scheme, or attempting to do so, the person used, or caused to be used, the U.S. Postal system.

If the government can prove these three elements, then they can prevail in their prosecution for mail fraud. However, there are defenses to these charges. If you, or a loved one is being prosecuted for mail fraud, feel free to contact John Buza, an experiened lawyer, for a free consultation.


  • Wire Fraud
Wire fraud is very similar to mail fraud. Wire fraud regulations stem from ever-changing technology. New schemes of fraud will occur as Americans embrace new forms of technology. Wire fraud is basically the same as mail fraud, but rather than using the U.S. Postal system to effectuate the fraud, a person is guilty of wire fraud when he uses an interstate wire, radio, or television to effectuate the fraud. Wire fraud is defined by 18 U.S.C. 1343. Wire fraud is a very serious crime and is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. If the wire fraud affects a financial institution, then it is punishable by up to 30 years in prison.

For the government to prevail in their prosecution against someone for wire fraud, it needs to prove the following three elements. It needs to prove:
  1. the person knowingly devised or participated in the scheme to defraud or to obtain money or property by false pretenses, representations, or promises;
  2. the person did so knowingly and with the intent to defraud; and
  3. for the purpose of carrying out the scheme, or attempting to do so, the person caused interstate wire communications to take place.
The important thing to remember is that the government does not need to prove that the wire communication itself was the means by which the goal of the fraud was effectuated. Rather, to be guilty of wire fraud, the government merely needs to prove that an interstate wire communication was used at some point during the scheme or plan.

If the government can prove these elements, then it can prevail in its prosecution for wire fraud. However, there are defenses to these charges. If you, or a loved one is being prosecuted for wire fraud, feel free to contact John Buza, an experienced criminal defense attorney, for a free consultation.

  • Healthcare Fraud
Healthcare fraud is a very serious crime that is becoming more common. Healthcare fraud is defined in 18 U.S.C. 1347. In its most basic form, healthcare fraud occurs when a person or organization defrauds a government or healthcare insurer. Healthcare fraud often occurs in the context of doctors or hospitals who bill insurance companies for procedures they didn't actually do. Often the patients are unaware that these procedures weren't done and there is no method for anyone to verify whether they were done. For example, suppose a patient goes to a dentist and the dentist says to the patient that she has a cavity. In reality, however, the patient does not have a cavity, but the dentist wants to bill the patient's insurance company for more than just for a routine checkup. The dentist then does some sort of a procedure. The procedure, however, has nothing to do with filling the cavity. Rather, it is only designed to look and feel like a cavity is being filled. The dentist then bills the patient's insurance company for the cavity filling. In this situation, the dentist committed healthcare fraud.

For the government to prevail in a prosecution for healthcare fraud, it needs to prove the following three elements. It needs to prove:
  1. the person engaged in a scheme to defraud a health care benefit program, or to obtain by false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises any money owned by or under the custody or control of such a program;
  2. the person knowingly and willfully participated in the scheme with the intent to defraud;
  3. the scheme was in connection with the delivery of, or payment for, health care benefits, items, or sources.

If the government can prove these three elements, then a person could be convicted of committing healthcare fraud. Healthcare fraud is a very serious crime that is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. However, if someone suffers "serious bodily injury" as a result of the fraud, the person accused of the healthcare fraud can be sentenced to 20 years in prison. If death results, the person can be sentenced to life in prison. 


  • Bank Fraud
Bank fraud is defined by 18 U.S.C. 1344. Bank fraud essentially occurs when a person, group, or other entity effectuates a fraud against a bank or other federally insured financial institution. Bank fraud is a very serious crime and is punishable by up to 30 years in prison.

For the government to prevail in its prosecution against someone for bank fraud, it needs to prove the following four elements. The government needs to prove:
  1. the person knowingly executed or attempted to execute a scheme to defraud;
  2. the scheme either related to a material fact or included representation or concealment of a material fact;
  3. the person had an actual intent to defraud; and
  4. the financial institution was federally insured.
If the government can prove these four elements, then it can prevail in its prosecution for bank fraud. The important thing to remember when it comes to bank fraud is that the misrepresentation has to be "material." The misrepresentation or concealment is legally considered "material" if it has a natural tendency to influence or is capable of influencing the decision of a person of ordinary prudence and comprehension. If you, or a loved one is being prosecuted for bank fraud, feel free to contact an experienced attorney for a free consultation.

Any accusation by the federal government of fraud is serious. Contact an experienced criminal defense attorney for a free consultation if you, or a loved one, is accused of any one of these crimes.