Not only is it a federal crime to use the United States Mail or a private or commercial carrier to carry out a fraudulent scheme defined under Title 18 U.S.C. 1341, but if you utilize a fictitious name or address for the purpose of carrying out such a scheme, you could also be charged with a different federal crime under Title 18 U.S.C. 1342.
In other words, this statute makes it a federal crime to use a false name for the purposes of carrying out a fraud scheme or for other unlawful business.
The closely related statute, 18 U.S. Code 1341 mail fraud, impose serious penalties for devising or intending to devise a scheme or engaging in fraud to obtain money or property using false or fraudulent pretenses or representations.
The statute broadly defines unlawful fraud and swindles to include using a fictitious name or address through the post office in any fraud schemes and using common carriers.
18 U.S.C. 1342 says, “Whoever, for the purpose of conducting, promoting, or carrying on by means of the Postal Service, any scheme or device mentioned in section 1341 of this title or any other unlawful business, uses or assumes, or requests to be addressed by, any fictitious, false, or assumed title, name, or address or name other than his own proper name, or takes or receives from any post office or authorized depository of mail matter, any letter, postal card, package, or other mail matter addressed to any such fictitious, false, or assumed title, name, or address, or name other than his own proper name, shall be….”
If convicted of this crime, you could serve up to five years in prison. Let's review this federal law in more detail below.
18 U.S.C. 1342 Explained
Title 18 U.S. Code 1342 is a federal law prohibiting using a fictitious name or address in any matter related to the United States Postal Service (USPS) or private carriers.
This includes but is not limited to sending, delivering, or receiving mail, packages, or other communications. The primary goal of this law is to prevent fraud, identity theft, and other malicious activities involving mail carriers.
By prohibiting the use of fictitious information, the law aims to protect the integrity of the mailing system and maintain trust between the public and these services.
18 U.S.C. 1342 gives prosecutors additional resources to expose and prosecute fraud cases that might otherwise be difficult to prove.
For example, suppose prosecutors can't uncover enough evidence to expose a fraudulent scheme under 18 U.S.C. 1341, a crime punishable by up to 20 years in prison. In that case, they may at least be able to charge the defendant with the lesser offense of using a fake name and address, punishable by up to 5 years.
Specifically, 18 U.S.C. 1342 makes it a federal crime to do either of the following to carry out a fraudulent scheme or "other unlawful business":
- Use or assume any "fictitious, false, or assumed title, name, or address" in conjunction with sending or receiving mail; or
- Receive and collect any mail or packages sent to said false name or address via the USPS or other depositories.
To convict you of this crime, federal prosecutors must establish the following elements:
- You knowingly and willfully used a fictitious name, address, or title;
- You did so in connection with mail communication; and
- You did so for the purpose of carrying out a fraudulent scheme or other unlawful business.
Violating Title 18 U.S. Code 1342 carries significant criminal penalties. Upon conviction, an individual can face up to five years in federal prison, a fine of up to $250,000, or both.
What Are Some Examples?
EXAMPLE 1: Sam has devised a scheme for swindling elderly people by having them invest money into a fake business venture. He sets up a phony business name and P.O. Box to collect the checks. In addition to other crimes, Sam could be charged under 18 U.S.C. 1342 for using a fake name.
EXAMPLE 2: In an attempt to collect government relief money to which he is not entitled, George sets up a fake business entity, giving his cousin's home address as the address where the phony business is located. In addition to other crimes, George can be charged under 18 U.S.C. 1342.
What Are the Related Federal Laws?
18 U.S. Code Chapter 63 mail fraud and other fraud offenses have several federal statutes related to 18 U.S.C. 1342 fictitious name and address, including the following:
- 18 U.S.C. 1341 – mail fraud;
- 18 U.S.C. 1343 – wire fraud;
- 18 U.S.C. 1344 – bank fraud;
- 18 U.S.C. 1345 – injunctions against fraud;
- 18 U.S.C. 1345 – honest services fraud;
- 18 U.S.C. 1347 – health care fraud;
- 18 U.S.C. 1348 – securities and commodities fraud;
- 18 U.S.C. 1349 – attempt and conspiracy;
- 18 U.S.C. 1350 – failure of officers to certify financial reports;
- 18 U.S.C. 1351 – fraud in foreign labor contracting.
What Are the Defenses for 18 U.S.C. 1342?
If you're charged with using a fictitious name or address for fraudulent purposes, a federal criminal defense attorney can employ several potential defenses to combat the charges, as discussed below.
Perhaps we can argue that there was a lack of intent to defraud or engage in unlawful business. Using a fake name or address is not a crime on its own. 18 U.S.C. 1342 criminalizes the use of fictitious names or addresses with the intent of committing fraud or other criminal actions explicitly. If you can show genuinely did not have any fraudulent intentions, the charges may be dismissed.
Perhaps we can argue there was a mistake of fact. Your attorney may say you made an honest mistake in providing a false name or address; therefore, there was no intent to deceive or defraud.
This defense may be applicable when the defendant accidentally provided incorrect information through a clerical error or was unaware that the information they provided was false.
Perhaps we can argue that the allegations are false. In some cases, defendants may claim that they have been falsely accused of violating Title 18 U.S. Code 1342.
This defense may involve presenting evidence that proves the defendant did not engage in the prohibited activities or demonstrating that the accuser has the motive to implicate the defendant falsely.
If you have been charged with a federal crime, contact our law firm by phone or through the contact form for an initial case review. We provide legal representation for federal criminal issues throughout the United States. Eisner Gorin LLP is based in Los Angeles, CA.