Last time, we began speaking about proof of intent in criminal cases, noting that intent can be categorized different ways, that different criminal statutes present different requirements in terms of specific intent, and that often prosecutors need to turn to circumstantial evidence to establish criminal intent in order to obtain a conviction.
Under federal mail and wire fraud statutes, criminal intent is often based on circumstantial evidence. According to the Department of Justice, criminal intent under these statutes may be inferred from the totality of the circumstances, including statements and conduct. There is, therefore, no need for direct evidence of fraudulent intent. Exactly how fraudulent intent is inferred depends on the circumstances of the case, of course.
Case law has established a number of important points regarding the use of circumstantial evidence to establish fraudulent intent. For instance, a scheme to defraud does not need to have been successful or complete in order for there to be a finding of fraudulent intent. A victim, therefore, does not need to have been injured, either. Prosecutors are required to show, though, that there was some actual harm or injury contemplated by the defendant. Misrepresentations which aim go no further than deceit are not adequate to support a finding of criminal intent. On the other hand, schemes in which the necessary result is injury to others may give rise to an inference of fraudulent intent.
It is important or a defendant facing charges under federal mail and wire fraud statutes to work with an attorney who understands the law and who can build the best possible defense based on the limitations imposed by law and the available evidence.