Even with emails, the Internet, texting and devices to access this technology, the United States Mail and other mail delivery entities still play a role in commerce. Offers, applications, advertisements and contracts still reach the hands of mail delivery employees. So-called “snail mail” can serve as instruments of fraudulent behavior.
18 U.S.C. §1341 criminalizes the use of mail delivery to perpetrate fraudulent schemes. If you face criminal prosecution for mail fraud, you need a Brooklyn mail fraud lawyer with experience in handling mail fraud and other federal criminal cases.
As its name suggests, mail fraud involves the use of the United States Mail. However, you can also face mail fraud charges for using private mail carriers such as Federal Express or United Parcel Service (UPS) to conduct the scheme.
At the heart of mail fraud lies the element of defrauding others using a mail carrier. Specifically, this involves creating or intending to create a scheme to defraud, or cheat, others and using the mail for the purpose of defrauding others. The government must prove that the scheme resulted in a loss of money or property or is likely to so result. Since mail fraud includes attempts to defraud, the phrase “no harm, no foul” does not apply if you’re charged with mail fraud.
Mail fraud encompasses a host of acts and schemes. Examples include:
*False advertisements, such as of non-existent products or services
*Work-at-home schemes, in which the victims pay or are required to pay in advance for a non-existent job or a job in which the scammer does not intend to pay for the work
*Fake “sweepstakes,” in which the perpetrator must “pay” for a prize that does not exist
*False solicitations for donations
*False invoices or bills
*Mailing of a contract for signature with no intent to perform
*“Ponzi” or “pyramid” schemes
*Phony government notices that appear “official”
To be guilty of mail fraud, you must have acted with fraudulent intent. As such, you do not face conviction merely because of an unfulfilled promise on your part. One of our mail fraud attorneys can argue that even an intentional breach of a contract does not render you guilty of mail fraud if you originally intended to honor your promise. Your intent is judged at the time of making the promise or contract. Evidence that you later found the transaction or promise too costly, not profitable or not feasible can help negate a claim that you acted with fraudulent intent.
Moreover, our mail fraud lawyers can help a court differentiate between “sales talk” and presentations of fact. In most cases, only the latter subjects you to mail fraud prosecution. Thus, using words such as “satisfaction guaranteed” and similar “puffing” usually doesn’t constitute the type of representations that give rise to a fraud charge. However, lying about an item’s value may subject you to mail fraud.
The federal mail fraud statute, 18 U.S.C. §1341, imposes severe penalties for mail fraud. You may be fined and get up to 20 years for each instance of mail fraud.
In certain instances, mail fraud carries a maximum prison term of 30 years and a maximum fine of $1,000,000. These enhancements arise if your acts of mail fraud affect a “financial institution.” 18 U.S.C. §20 includes in the definition of financial institutions banks, mortgage companies and credit unions. Often, these acts of mail fraud involve lies on a mortgage or loan application.
Additionally, the higher penalties arise if you committed mail fraud in connection with a presidentially-declared emergency or disaster area. For example, you mail in an application for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and lie about having lived in the disaster area or misrepresent the extent of your losses.
If you find yourself under investigation or indictment for mail fraud, promptly contact one of our Brooklyn mail fraud lawyers. The assistance can help you defend these serious charges or reduce the potential punishments.