Federal law treats wire and mail fraud as two different subjects. While they are separate charges with their own penalties and processes, they share a good number of similarities.
While the similarities often dictate how each charge gets treated, the distinctions determine what penalty you might face and how easy it is for the prosecution to pursue a charge.
Differences between wire fraud and mail fraud
The Congressional Research Service provides a thorough overview of both wire fraud and mail fraud. What applies to one often applies to the other. However, there are some notable differences.
For example, wire fraud takes place through the use of electronic communications, which covers a wide range of technology. Phone calls, text messages, emails, faxes and other electronic communications fall under the designation of wire fraud.
In contrast, mail fraud involves the use of physical mailing services, that is anything sent through the United States postal system. This includes packages, letters and postcards. It also includes both the United States Postal Service and private couriers.
Similarities between wire and mail fraud
Charges of mail fraud and wire fraud involve elements of intention and elements of fraud. This means parting victims from their money, assets or right to honest services. In other words, both forms of fraud must show that the person charged had the intent to defraud a victim, even if the defrauding never actually occurred.
Those convicted of either mail fraud or wire fraud face similar penalties, with potential prison sentences of up to 20 years and fines of up to $250,000 for individuals.