Federal Criminal Defense Attorney Explains Mail Fraud Charges
What is Mail Fraud?
Mail fraud is a federal offense with a potential penalty of up to 20 years incarceration and a fine up to $250,000. An organization convicted of mail fraud can face up to $500,000 in fines. The offense is defined broadly to include the use of the postal service as part of any scheme to defraud or obtain money or property. Mail fraud, as well as wire fraud, are both predicate offenses that can result in charges under RICO.
Elements of a Federal Mail Fraud Offense
Mail fraud is defined in 18 U.S. Code Section 1341, which addresses fraud and swindles. To secure a conviction for mail fraud, a U.S. Attorney must prove:
- The postal service or mail communications were used
- As part of a scheme or artifice to defraud
- Which involved a material misstatement, false pretensions, false promises, or other misrepresentations
- With the intent of depriving another
- Of honest services or of property/assets
Each element of the offense must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. A mail fraud lawyer can help you introduce defenses to try to avoid conviction and associated penalties.
When Does a “Scheme” Lead to Federal Mail Fraud Charges?
While conviction for a mail fraud offense necessarily requires the use of the postal service, or a mailing, the mailed communication does not necessarily have to be an essential element of the scheme. If the scheme could have gone forward without the use of the postal service, you may still be convicted of mail fraud. You may be found guilty of mail fraud as long as the qualifying mailing was “incident to an essential part of the scheme” or a “step in the plot,” according to the Supreme Court in Schmuck v. United States.
Scheme has been interpreted broadly to include false statements about current facts or circumstances, as well as false promises or false representations of future conditions. 18 U.S. Code Section 1346 indicates that a “scheme” also includes a plan to deprive someone of the “intangible right of honest services.”
There is no requirement that the scheme to defraud was successful for you to be convicted of a federal mail fraud offense. However, courts, including the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, have ruled that the prosecutor may be required to demonstrate that the scheme involved communications that could reasonably have deceived someone “of ordinary prudence and comprehension.” Arkady Bukh has a long track record of representing clients accused of serious federal and state crimes in NYC TOP RATED ON: SUPER LAWYERS, AVVO, NATIONAL TRIAL LAWYERS
Top Rated Criminal Lawyer
Arkady Bukh has a long track record of representing clients accused of serious federal and state crimes in NYC
TOP RATED ON: SUPER LAWYERS, AVVO, NATIONAL TRIAL LAWYERS
Proving Federal Mail Fraud Charges
A prosecutor does not have to prove you personally mailed any communications in order to convict you of mail fraud. The prosecutor only must prove that you caused a mailing because the mailing was foreseeable as a part of your scheme or plan.
Because the offense is an intent offense, a prosecutor does have to prove that you acted willfully with the intention of being deceptive or dishonest. If you can prove you acted in good faith or believed the promises or statements to be true, you cannot be convicted of mail fraud.
The prosecutor must also prove the misstatements, false pretenses, or other misrepresentations could influence the person who was addressed by the misstatements.
A Mail Fraud Attorney Can Represent You
An accusation of federal mail fraud can be one of multiple white collar offenses you are charged with depending upon the nature of the larger scheme to defraud. You could also be charged with other fraud offenses, offenses related to bribery and illegal kickbacks, securities fraud, health care fraud, and bank fraud. If you are charged with mail fraud against a financial institution, the penalty could be as long as 30 years incarceration.
A mail fraud lawyer can defend you against all charges you face or can assist you in the negotiation of a plea bargain to reduce your charges.
Call an attorney as soon as possible if you have been charged with postal fraud or any mail fraud federal offense.