Sunday, November 7, 2004
This Tuesday, November 9, 2004, the United States Supreme Court will hear oral argument in the case of Pasquantino v. United States. This is a wire fraud (18 U.S.C. 1343) case emanting from the Fourth Circuit. The defendants "were convicted of using interstate wires for the purpose of executing a scheme to defraud Canada and the Province of Ontario of excise duties and tax revenues relating to the importation and sale of liquor." The issue before the Court is whether the wire fraud statute includes prosecutions where the alleged scheme to defraud involves taxes potentially owed to a foreign sovereign. The Court will be looking at the common law revenue rule and how far it should extend. It will also look at the definition of the term "property" in the fraud statutes to see if property includes schemes to defraud foreign governments. Because many of the fraud statutes operate the same, this case could have the potential to influence prosecutions that use the mail fraud statute (18 U.S.C. 1341 ), as the Court will be deciding if prosecutors can use fraud statutes when the scheme is to defraud a foreign government.
The mail and wire fraud statutes provide prosecutors with enormous discretion in prosecuting fraud cases. Will the Court allow them to use this discretion in prosecuting schemes that involve alleged deprivations of property outside the United States. Stay tuned.