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What is Mail Fraud?

Under 18 USC 1343, it is illegal for an individual to use, or cause the use of, the United States Postal Service during the course of a scheme to take money from another by fraud or false pretenses.

Private commercial interstate mail carriers such as UPS or FedEx also fall under the confines of this statute.

Mail fraud is using the mail to defraud another person, business, financial institution, or governmental agency of money or property. The belief that the lie or fraud itself must involve the mail is a common misconception. All that must be proven is that the mail was used or caused to be used during the course of the fraud. Any innocent mailing can be brought under the law’s jurisdiction. Behavior that may seem relatively harmless becomes conduct that could subject an individual to a serious federal crime if it involves the mail in a criminal fraud or scheme. A scheme to defraud is a plan to steal money from another person or entity by lying to them.

Contact Lebedin Kofman LLP today – free consultation.

What are the Penalties for Mail Fraud?

Mail fraud is one of the most easily violated offenses found in federal criminal law, and the penalties for mail fraud are some of the harshest for a nonviolent crime. If convicted of mail fraud, a defendant may receive a sentence of 20 years in prison. Additionally, the defendant may be made to pay a fine of $250,000 and full restitution to those wronged by his or her behavior. A skilled mail fraud attorney in New York can help you avoid these far-reaching and long-lasting consequences. It the victim of the fraud is a financial institution, a judge may increase the prison sentence, fines, or both. The prison sentence may be increased from 20 to 30 years, and the fines may be increased from $250,000 to $1,000,000.

How Can a Scheme Lead to Mail Fraud Charges?

Although a conviction for mail fraud requires that the offense be committed using the postal service or sending a letter, the mail communication factor is not really essential. It is still possible for a person to be charged with mail fraud if the scheme goes forward without the use of a postal service. According to Schmuck v. the United States, the Supreme Court may find you guilty of mail fraud if the qualifying mailing was an “incident to an essential component of the scheme”.

“Scheme” can be interpreted as false statements regarding current facts and circumstances as well as false promises about future conditions. 18 U.S. Code Section 1346 states that “schemes” can also include a plan to deny someone the “intangible right to honest services.”

It is not required to prove that the scheme was successful in order to be found guilty of federal mail fraud. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the prosecution may need to prove that the communications involved were capable of deceiving someone of ordinary prudence or comprehension. 

Seeking the help of an experienced defense lawyer is also very important when facing charges of mail fraud. A skilled lawyer may be able to help you understand your rights and protect your freedom. Call Lebedin Kofman LLP today to schedule a consultation.

We Have Successfully Defended Thousands of Clients

To convict a person of mail fraud, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:

  • The defendant must have devised a scheme or artifice to defraud another;
  • The defendant must have intended to defraud another;
  • The defendant had to use, or cause another to use, the mail during the course of the scheme to defraud.

For behavior to be considered fraudulent, any misrepresentation must be related to the scheme. It must either help the defendant perpetrate the crime or convince a purported victim to believe the defendant.

The mail fraud state is very broad and can be used in many different cases brought by federal prosecutors. The mailing does not have to be illegal; it only has to be related to the scheme to defraud another. A case may begin with the United State Postal Inspection Service or by any other federal law enforcement agency such as the FBI or IRS. If these agencies believe that an individual has been participating in behavior that constitutes fraud, these agencies may use the mail fraud statute to investigate and charge the suspected individual.

To speak with one of our criminal defense attorneys in New York, contact our firm today at (646) 663-4430 and schedule a free consultation.

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