A recent case in Cuyahoga Heights, Ohio illustrates the damage and danger of fraudulent activities involving the mail and large sums of money.
In July 2013, former information technology director for Cuyahoga Heights School District Joseph M. Palazzo pled guilty to wire fraud, conspiracy to commit mail fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Palazzo, age 31, diverted more than $3.4 million from the school district to himself and other parties involved in the scheme.
Charges of mail and wire fraud figure prominently in matters involving embezzlement. But what exactly do these charges mean? The difference between mail and wire fraud is the mode used to commit fraud, such as:
Mail fraud involves the placement of material intended as a part of a scheme to defraud in a post office.
Wire fraud involves communication intended as part of a scheme to defraud via electronic media, television, radio or foreign commerce.
In either case, a defendant need not have personally mailed a letter or sent an email. The transfer of material via mail or wire need only have occurred as a likely consequence of the scheme.
In concert with others, Palazzo created false invoices, and in some cases forged signatures to approve payment. Payments were made to fictitious companies without a corresponding receipt for goods and services. In a related scheme, Palazzo ordered personal electronic devices and equipment for classrooms that was paid for by the school district and then sold them. He then pocketed the proceeds after the items were sold at discount prices.
Sentenced to 11 years in prison, Palazzo was also fined $3.4 million in restitution.