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What is mail fraud?

On Behalf of | May 7, 2024 | Criminal Defense, Federal Crimes, White Collar Crime

In an era where e-mail dominates, countless Americans still prefer using the Post Office to sign and deliver original documents, send holiday cards, mail packages and more. However, this continued widespread usage also presents opportunities for mail fraud, a federal crime that involves misusing mailing systems to carry out schemes.

If you are under investigation for mail fraud, it is crucial to grasp what you are up against. Mail fraud is no laughing matter but a serious federal offense with harsh consequences.

What constitutes mail fraud?

There is a wide range of offenses where mail fraud may apply. However, two critical elements must be present to be charged with the crime.

Firstly, there must be a deliberate scheme or plan to defraud a person. Secondly, you must have used the United States Postal Service (USPS) or a similar carrier, such as FedEx, to execute or advance the fraudulent scheme.

Some activities that may qualify as mail fraud are:

  • Sending false documents to solicit sensitive or personal information
  • Promising quick, high returns in exchange for a small investment
  • Applying for a credit card with stolen or fraudulent details via mail
  • Receiving checks from illicit activities
  • Sending documents claiming to be from the government
  • Intercepting another person’s mail to collect confidential information

Even outdated tactics such as get-rich schemes and chain letters may fall under the wide umbrella of mail fraud.

What are the penalties for mail fraud?

Although mail fraud may seem like a harmless white-collar crime, victims suffer losses ranging from hundreds to millions of dollars.

The legal penalties are severe. A conviction could result in prison time of up to 20 years and $25,000 in fines. In cases involving a financial institution or a presidential declaration of disaster or emergency, the consequences are even harsher, with potential fines of up to $1 million and a prison sentence of up to 30 years.

Intentionally exploiting the mailing system to prey on vulnerable individuals for financial gain is a serious crime. If charged with mail fraud, consider contacting an experienced criminal defense attorney for legal guidance on your next steps. Even if you are falsely accused, having a lawyer by your side can be vital in protecting your rights.