A defendant from California who was accused of practicing law as a criminal defense lawyer without a license was charged with a variety of federal crimes, including mail fraud and wire fraud, and ultimately convicted and sentenced to nine and a half years in federal prison. The defendant never went to law school and never took any bar exams. However, he managed to get admitted to several federal courts by filing false admission applications to those federal courts, and he handled many criminal cases as a criminal defense lawyer in several states.
In court, defendant’s real criminal defense lawyer argued that the federal government did not establish all of the necessary elements of wire fraud and mail fraud. In order to commit the federal crime of wire fraud, there must be some aspect of the crime that is transmitted by wire to a different state for the purpose iof executing a scheme to defraud another. In order to commit mail fraud, a defendant must use the mail system to further the scheme to defraud.
For the wire fraud charge, the government focused on the defendant’s website which he used to promote his fraudulent criminal law practice. The government called a witness from the defendant’s website hosting and domain name registration company. That witness testified that the server, which processes and stores data for the website, was located out of state in Virginia and anyone in any state could and did view the website. The court went into a lengthy and technical discussion about how internet content crosses state lines when people from other states view it. At the end of the discussion, the court ruled that posting a website that was hosted in a different state and viewed by people in different states was sufficient to satisfy the interstate requirement for a wire fraud conviction.
As for the mail fraud, the government presented evidence that the defendant mailed fraudulent applications to different federal courts in different states in order to gain acceptance to practice in those courts.