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Mail fraud is codified under 18 USC 1341. which criminalizes using the U.S. Postal Service or another mail carrier to fraudulently obtain money or things of value. In a mail fraud case, there are two elements that the prosecution must prove (1) having devised or intending to devise a scheme to defraud (or to perform specified fraudulent acts), and (2) use of the mail for the purpose of executing, or attempting to execute, the scheme (or specified fraudulent acts).
The charge of mail fraud is closely related to wire fraud in that there must be the intent to defraud, and the fraudulent activity actually occurred. This allows mail fraud to be charged in many situations, so long as a type of mail carrier was used. However, it is not necessary for a letter to be mailed to be charged with mail fraud – the use of the mail may be “incidental” to the crime.
Have you ever seen a U.S. Postal Service police car and wondered what USPS police officers investigate? One of the most common offenses investigated by the United States Postal Inspection Service is mail fraud. Drug charges are a close second.
In 1994, Congress expanded mail fraud from only including the US Postal system to any commercial mail carrier, reflecting the increased use of other mail carriers. Therefore, if you are committing fraud and during the course of the fraud, you use the postal service or another mail carrier, you are subject to prosecution under 1341.
One of the most famous and well-known mail fraud cases is the Ponzi case. After coming to America, struggling to make a name for himself, and getting involved in other scams, Charles Ponzi developed the Ponzi scheme that would go down in history and become the name that other financial schemes and frauds are named after.
His scheme promised investors returns of 50 percent in 45 days or 100 percent in 90 days; the issue came when Ponzi paid investors with money from other investors rather than any actual profits. After his scheme unraveled, Ponzi was charged with 86 counts of mail fraud.
In other mail fraud cases, scammers may send letters pretending to be a charitable organization or impersonating an organization like the IRS, intending to misrepresent who they genuinely are to receive money from unsuspecting victims in return.
It is important to note that the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines sets forth recommendations to U.S. District Courts on punishing these types of offenses. Penalties for mail fraud are set according to the actual loss amount and the intended loss amount. This means that person may receive additional punishment for attempted behavior that never results in a loss.
Other considerations in mail fraud cases, like other white collar crimes, include the number of victims, the financial hardships the victims suffered, or certain other misrepresentations – such as posing as a charity or government agency. Each of these can result in additional possible punishment.
Sentencing ranges for mail fraud, for a person with no criminal history, can start at 0-6 months up to 15-20 years, depending on the loss amount found in the case. Mail fraud brings specific difficulties in that it includes a financial fraud and the use of the mail, which adds to the amount of information that must be compiled, reviewed, and summarized prior to a trial and strategy to be developed.
These cases often require a strong familiarity with federal criminal procedure, technical expertise, and the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines. Further, these cases are often investigated by examining bank records, computer records, search warrants, and witness interviews. Such prosecutions are often complex and take a great deal of time. That’s why it is imperative to be defended by an experienced federal mail fraud attorney.
A person being targeted by a federal agency for any white-collar crime, particularly mail and wire fraud, should seek legal representation from an experienced federal mail fraud lawyer before speaking with an agent. If you believe you might be under investigation for mail fraud, a call to our office will give you a confidential analysis of your situation and what might occur.
Our team of attorneys are former state and federal prosecutors. We also have former federal agents who assist us in our own defense investigations. We have the expertise and skillset to defend even the most complex white collar criminal cases. Call 817-203-2220 for a consultation today.