Los Angeles Mail Fraud Lawyer

18 U.S.C. § 1341

Mail fraud is defined as the use of the U.S. Postal Service in any criminal attempt to gain money or things of value. The original crime carries its own penalties in addition to the penalties involved with mail fraud, regardless of whether the original crime is tax fraud, health care fraud, or any other number of possible offenses. By using the Postal Service or other private or commercial interstate carrier, the crime is raised to the level of mail fraud and therefore incurs enhanced punishment, which may include a separate federal prosecution for crimes that would otherwise be matters of state jurisdiction.

The United States Code Section 1341 provides punishment for anyone involved in an attempt to fraud or swindle who “places in any post office or authorized depository for mail matter, any matter or thing whatever to be sent or delivered by the Postal Service…or commercial interstate carrier” or otherwise involves the Postal Service or commercial state carrier in such attempt to fraud or swindle. It states that such a person shall be fined and/or imprisoned for not more than 20 years. Furthermore violations affecting financial institutions are punishable by a fine of not more than $1,000,000, imprisonment for not more than 30 years, or both. United States Code Section 1342 provides that the use of a fictitious name or address through the mail is potentially punishable by a fine and/or up to five years in prison. It is important to note that simply attempting or conspiring to commit these crimes is punishable by the same penalties as those who actually succeed in committing the offenses.

Code Provision and Elements

18 U.S.C. § 1341 prohibits “Mail Fraud.”  As you will see, Mail Fraud does not refer to a specific type of fraudulent scheme.  Rather, it is simply the crime of facilitating whatever fraudulent scheme or conduct one is engaged in by utilizing the U.S. Mail.  There are two elements to the federal crime of Mail Fraud: “(1) having devised or intending to devise a scheme to defraud (or to perform specified fraudulent acts), and (2) use of the mail for the purpose of executing, or attempting to execute, the scheme (or specified fraudulent acts).” Schmuck v. United States, 489 U.S. 705, 721 n. 10 (1989).

For example, suppose A decides to defraud B by purporting to sell a piece of property to B which A does not own.  In the course of convincing B to forward the purchase money, A sends several letters to B containing false deeds, etc. showing A’s ownership of the property.  B relies on the information in these letters and sends the money to A.  A can be charged with defrauding B as to the property sale, but also with Mail Fraud as A utilized the mail for the purpose of attempting to execute the scheme.

Penalties

Mail Fraud is punishable by imprisonment for 20 years, a fine, or both.

There are two subsets of Mail Fraud which are punishable by a $1,000,000 fine, 30 years’ incarceration, or both.  These are Mail Fraud involving a federally declared disaster (such as sending false solicitations to defraud disaster victims) or affecting a financial institution.

Defenses

  1. You were unaware of the fraud – Fraud schemes often involve multiple actors. It may be that you simply placed a letter in the mail at the direction of your employer, or another individual. If your attorney can show that you were not a part of the fraudulent scheme itself, your facilitation of the scheme by mailing the letter is not enough to convict you of Mail Fraud.
  2. The mailed items did not help execute the fraud – Courts have held that the mailed items need not be crucial or central to the fraudulent scheme; they may be merely incidental. Still, your attorney will want to examine the government’s evidence as to how the mailing of certain items played into the larger alleged fraud. It may be that the mailing is so unrelated to the purposes of the fraud itself, that you may not be properly charged with Mail Fraud.

Contact Us

Mail Fraud cases are often complex and fact-dependent.  If you, or someone you know, is being investigated or has been charged with the federal crime of Mail Fraud under 18 U.S.C. § 1341, call our experienced Los Angeles mail fraud attorneys today.  They will advise you on how to protect your rights and resolve your case for the best possible outcome.

If you are suspected of or charged with mail fraud, it is very important that you seek our legal services early. Call our federal defense law firm at (877) 781-1570 or fill out online contact form.

Related Information: Wire Fraud | Bank Fraud