Mail fraud occurs when a perpetrator devises a plan to deprive another person of their property or services using the United States Postal Service. Because the United States Postal Service is a government-owned and operated service, any acts committed against or using the USPS constitute a federal crime and will be tried in federal court by federal attorneys. If you’re facing charges of mail fraud, you need mail fraud lawyers with the utmost experience to help you win your case.
Overview of Mail Fraud Laws
Laws constituting mail fraud are broad, incorporating a wide range of criminal activities. Because the statutes encompass so many different criminal situations, federal mail fraud lawyers often use the charge of mail fraud in cases where the crime they wish to charge isn’t more highly specified in other statutes.
The very first mail fraud laws were put in place in 1872, and originally only covered fraud cases involving money and tangible property. These laws were intended to only prosecute people who were using the United States Mail as an integral part of a scheme they had already hatched. Since its inception, Congress has expanded mail fraud laws several times. This significantly expanded reach now includes thefts of “honest services,” and the law also covers any crimes committed using FedEx, UPS, or any other interstate mail carrier service.
Charges of mail fraud also open defendants up to additional charges (and sentences) of racketeering. The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act allows the prosecution to charge any accomplices or additional individuals in fraud cases alongside the defendant. A RICO conviction can come with significantly higher costs. Jail time and fines for a RICO conviction can exceed those associated with only a mail fraud charge.
How the Prosecution Proves Mail Fraud
In mail fraud cases, it’s the job of a mail fraud lawyer to defend their clients against charges of mail fraud. The job of the prosecution is twofold but very simple: first, the prosecution must prove that the defendant had a plan to commit fraud, and second, the prosecution must prove that the defendant used mail services as the means to perpetrate the fraud.
Fraud is defined as behavior that goes against the ethical duty to another individual, which then results in damages. That might seem like a broad, obvious definition, but that is intentional—it’s almost limitless because prosecutors use fraud charges to essentially track down people who cheat to gain financially or to gain property. Fraud can also refer to a violation of honesty in general. All that is necessary to prove fraud, essentially, is a calculated effort to create a scheme to deceive other people.
Prosecutors often have an easier time with proving mail fraud based on the broad and vague definition. Because mail fraud statutes incorporate any interstate mail delivery service, mailing anything can be an intentional or accidental part of the fraud scheme. It’s important to note that fraud schemes involving email or phones do not constitute mail fraud but can be charged under other federal fraud laws, such as wire fraud.
Penalties for Mail Fraud
Having a mail fraud lawyer on your side to help you navigate the vague statutes associated with mail fraud is essential. The punishments for mail fraud convictions can be severe. The specific penalties a court could deliver vary from case to case because the details of every case will be different, but some of the ways that convicted individuals are punished are through long prison sentences and large fines.
Convicted mail fraud felons may face up to 20 years of jail time, depending on the situation and the crime. There are some situations, though, depending on the circumstance of the victim, that would warrant harsher sentences of up to 30 years. These harsher sentences are typically invoked when the crime involves a disaster or a banking institution.
Fines are also severe, with up to $250,000 for a single occurrence. This number, like the prison sentence, can go up if the fraud involves a disaster or a banking institution.
Mail Fraud Lawyers
The laws and rules around mail fraud are vague, making proving the fraud much easier, and penalties from a mail fraud conviction can be severe. These penalties can be worse when other people are involved, warranting a RICO charge and conviction. It’s important to have a skilled mail fraud lawyer to navigate the legal process and to build a strong defense against the prosecution. If you’re in search of an experienced and knowledgeable mail fraud lawyer, you need to contact Lowther Walker, LLC today.