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Copyright (c) 1998 American Criminal Law Review 
American Criminal Law Review

ARTICLE: Mail and Wire Fraud *

* The author and editors gratefully acknowledge the review provided by Geraldine Szott Moohr (University of Houston Law Center) of the 1997 MAIL AND WIRE FRAUD Article, which was most helpful in researching and updating this year's Article.

Spring, 1998

35 Am. Crim. L. Rev. 943


Christopher G. Green and Christopher P. Hammon


To federal prosecutors of white collar crime, the mail fraud statute is our Stradivarius, our Colt 45, our Louisville Slugger, our Cuisinart--our true love. We may flirt with RICO, show off with 10b-5, and call the conspiracy law 'darling' but we always come home to the virtues of 18 U.S.C. 1341, with its simplicity, adaptability, and comfortable familiarity. It understands us and, like many a foolish spouse, we like to think we understand it... 1

As the above statement by a former federal prosecutor indicates, the mail 2 and wire 3 fraud statutes have always been used as a powerful prosecutorial tool. The purpose of these two statutes is to prevent the use of the mails or wires 4 in the furtherance of fraudulent activity. While the two statutes were separately codified, a majority of the case law dealing with the statutes has concerned the meaning of a "scheme to defraud" and the courts have generally considered the two statutes in conjunction with one another.

The two statutes have been widely used to "cover not only the full range of consumer frauds, stock frauds, land frauds, bank frauds, insurance frauds, and commodity frauds, but [also] ... such areas as blackmail, counterfeiting, election fraud and bribery." 5 Prosecutors have also used these statutes to prosecute money laundering and Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act ("RICO") violations. 6 A violation of 1341 or 1343 can provide the unlawful act necessary to establish a RICO 7
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