Using the U.S. mail or interstate delivery service to engage in fraud is considered mail fraud and can be prosecuted under the federal mail fraud law. If you or someone you care for has been accused of using the mail to commit mail fraud, turn to a mail fraud lawyer for assistance.
A person can be convicted of mail fraud if they devise a scheme to defraud such as obtaining money or property by means of false pretenses and the use the United States Postal Service to mail material and carry out this fraud. This federal law is broad and is also one of the laws most commonly charged by federal prosecutors because it can be applied in so many various situations.
Mail fraud has been around for quite some time. This statute dates back to as early as 1872 when those using the U.S. mail or interstate delivery service attempted to commit fraud to promote a counterfeit or lottery scheme. The first laws written only covered a small portion of what we consider mail fraud today, money and tangible property. But as Congress has expanded mail fraud laws, they now include fraud that constitutes a theft of honest services and can now include such services as FedEx or UPS. Now, this statute can apply to many potential criminal striations and is one that prosecutors now rely on as the first line of defense when they are ultimately working towards other charges in the meantime. For instance, mail fraud is the source of criminal fraud statutes that criminalize wire fraud, healthcare fraud, or bank fraud. Fraud according to the law and the courts can be defined as conduct that both breaks the moral and legal duty to someone as well as causes damage. For example, mailing out merchandise that is a lesser grade than what the customer ordered can be considered mail fraud. In other words, fraud is an intention to cheat someone.
Using the postal system to deprive someone of honest services is considered mail fraud. But what does the term “honest services” mean? This scheme to deprive someone of honest services goes above and beyond trying to cheat someone out of money or property. This can be thought of as giving your word to someone and then going back on it or not following through. For example, if you reward an item from an auction to your friend rather than the highest bidder, this would be considered fraud violating honest services. You did not fulfill your duty to the customer by doing what you said you would by delivering honest services when conducting business. Absolutely any method of mail used by the defendant to carry out this scheme is considered mail fraud. Because this is so common a charge brought on by the prosecution, it is commonly known as the “prosecutor’s best friend.” Mailing does not necessarily have to be an essential part of the fraud, just a small portion of it in order to be brought forward to mail fraud charges. It is enough even to prove that the mail services in some way shape or form were going to be used at some point in the scheme, even if they weren’t ever used at all before charges were brought forward.
Because it is a charge that can be so easily thrown around, you want to be careful that you don’t take responsibility of defending your actions to anyone who comes to investigate. Should investigators call or visit you to ask questions, you are not liable to answer in this investigative stage. In fact, it could be more detrimental to your case to answer without a lawyer present, even if you are trying to cooperate or prove your innocence as prosecution and misconstrue your answers. When facing a mail fraud investigation, be sure to rely on the services, experience, and know-how of a skilled mail fraud lawyer who can walk you through the step-by-step process of answering investigator questions in a manner that is best for your case.
Some common mail fraud schemes can include work at home schemes, Ponzi schemes, sweepstakes fraud, credit card fraud, franchise fraud, or fraud targeted at the elderly. When faced with a mail fraud charge, it falls to the prosecution to prove that there was a plan to defraud and that the postal service was used to carry out the plan. The jury must be convinced that there was indeed a scheme to defraud a victim of money, property, or honest services.
Mail fraud comes with not only the risk of a felony conviction for a recognized offense, but also can come with jail time and/or a hefty fine. But it does not stop there. Those convicted of mail fraud can also be convicted of racketeering. If the defendant acted in conjunction with someone else to commit mail fraud, they can also be charged by the prosecution of racketeering under the RICO, or Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. This could lead to significantly more fines, jail time, or other punishments. Mail fraud should never be taken lightly. Because of its potential exposure to other charges such as racketeering, it is best that you retain the services of an experienced mail fraud lawyer with a reputation for success to obtain the best possible results throughout a mail fraud investigation or criminal trial.
Mail fraud penalties can vary based on the circumstances surrounding each individual mail fraud case. The potential for imprisonment for mail fraud is extremely high. Each offense can carry up to a 20-year sentence. Mail fraud fines can also be potentially remarkably high. Once conviction can result in a fine of up to $250,000. Mail fraud against a federal institution could result in up to $1,000,000 in fines. Mail fraud can also result in a probation term. In lieu of prison time, a person handed probation after sentence spends a designated amount of time abiding by specific court conditions. Restitution payments may also be ordered paid to the victim to recover what was lost because of the fraud.
When faced with mail fraud penalties, a mail fraud lawyer will be in your corner, fighting for you. Contact our top mail fraud lawyers today. We can answer any questions you may have or help you in your legal battle to obtain the best possible outcome for your case. We are on your side.