Mail fraud is a federal crime that carries serious consequences, including up to 20 years in prison. Mail fraud means using the U.S. Postal Service or a private carrier as part of a plan to commit fraud. If you are charged with mail fraud, you will be up against federal prosecutors who may have spent months building a case against you. You need experienced legal help. You need to talk to a Los Angeles mail fraud lawyer.
At the Simmrin Law Group, we know how to help you. We have a hand-picked team of lawyers who have devoted their careers to protecting people from federal criminal charges. Let us give you free consultation and answer your questions. Fill out the form to the right or call us at 310-997-4688 and get your free consultation today.
What counts as mail fraud?
Mail fraud occurs any time a person commits a fraud scheme that involves the U.S. mail—or a private carrier such as UPS or FedEx. Mail doesn’t have to be used directly to commit the fraud, but there does have to be some sort of mailed communication at some stage of the scheme.
Mailing a communication might mean:
- Putting it in a mailbox or leaving it at a post office for delivery
- Receiving something delivered by the postal service or a private carrier
- Asking someone else to put something in the mail for you or pick up mail for you
Mail fraud requires that a fraud was committed, and there are many types of fraud crimes under both federal and state law. In a mail fraud case, the word “fraud” means knowingly or recklessly misrepresenting the “material facts” in order to deprive someone else of money (or anything that has value).
There are several important components to that definition:
- A misrepresentation can be a lie, or it can also mean you left out important information in a way that is really the same thing as lying.
- A material fact is anything that’s important to the transaction. It’s the kind of statement that could make or break the deal. A misrepresentation about a minor detail that does not matter to the deal is not enough to support a mail fraud conviction.
- Knowingly misrepresenting a fact means that you knew it was a lie. But you can also be convicted of mail fraud for a “reckless” misrepresentation. This means you made statements without caring whether they were true or false.
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Why does it matter that a fraud involved the mail?
When mail is used, fraud becomes a federal crime instead of a state crime. Under the commerce clause of the U.S. constitution, the federal government has the right to regulate commercial activity between states. Mail is one type of nationwide commercial activity. This means that the U.S. government has a right to prosecute fraud cases when they involve the mail.
If you are accused of mail fraud, your case will be heard in federal court and handled by experienced federal prosecutors. If you are convicted, you can be sent to federal prison rather than state prison.
When fraud does not involve mail or another area regulated by the federal government, it may still be a crime. But it will be prosecuted under California’s state statutes instead. This means that mail fraud is often used as a way of “kicking a case upstairs” and getting tougher penalties—the same fraud may have been much less serious if it didn’t involve the mail.
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I never mailed anyone a solicitation. Why am I being charged with mail fraud?
The classic mail fraud case involves a mailed solicitation to buy something. The solicitation contains false statements, people believe them and send money, and they have essentially been scammed. But some people are convicted of mail fraud when the mail played only a very minor role in the overall scheme. For example, a person might make false statements at a sales presentation and collect checks from customers on the spot. Afterward, the seller sends a confirmation through the mail. Even though the fraud was completed in person, the use of mail to follow up can be enough to support a mail fraud charge.
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What if no one actually lost any money or got defrauded?
Mail fraud is a crime that depends on intent. If you made a misrepresentation and intended to get people to part with their money, you can be convicted, even if no one ever believed you or gave you a dime.
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What are the penalties for a federal mail fraud conviction?
If you are convicted of mail fraud, you can be sentenced with:
- Up to 20 years in federal prison in most cases, or
- Up to 30 years in federal prison if the fraud involved a federal disaster ora financial institution.
You can also be fined in addition to prison time.
What defenses can I use in a mail fraud case?
There are several defenses you might use in a federal mail fraud case. Examples include:
- Lack of intent. To be convicted of mail fraud, you must have intended to defraud someone. Thus, lack of intent is a strong defense. For example, it is not unusual for employees to be charged with mail fraud because of a scheme cooked up by their boss. If you did not know what was going on, you could have a lack of intent defense.
- Mistake of fact. To be convicted of mail fraud, you must know that your statements were false, or recklessly disregard the truth. You may have a “mistake of fact” defense if you were confused or honestly mistaken and believed that your own statements were true.
Federal mail fraud cases are handled by experienced federal prosecutors backed by agencies with lots of resources. They are harder to fight than state charges are, so it is important to have a good lawyer with federal criminal experience to build a strong case based on the defenses are most likely to succeed in your situation.
Talk to a Los Angeles Mail Fraud Lawyer for Free
Mail fraud is a serious charge. Don’t let it ruin your life. The attorneys of the Simmrin Law Group can build your defense and potentially resolve your case with no prison time, a lesser charge, or even a verdict of Not Guilty. Let us give you a FREE consultation. Fill out the form to the right or call us at 310-997-4688 and get your free consultation today.