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 attorney at the Simmrin Law Group. We have a hand-picked team of lawyers that has devoted their careers to protecting people from federal criminal charges. Let us help you fight against a conviction. Fill out the form to the right or give us a call to schedule a free, no-obligation case evaluation today.
What Counts As Mail Fraud?
Mail fraud occurs any time a person commits a fraud scheme that involves the U.S. Postal Service 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 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, but the critical words and phrases are:
- Material fact
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 is 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 arrangement is not enough to support a mail fraud conviction.
Knowingly misrepresenting a fact means that you knew it was a lie.
You can also be convicted of mail fraud for a reckless misrepresentation. Reckless misrepresentation means you made statements without caring whether they were true or false.
For a free legal consultation with a mail fraud lawyer serving Los Angeles, call (310) 896-2723
Why Does It Matter that a Fraud Involved the Mail?
When mail is involved, 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 get 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. However, it will be prosecuted under California’s state statutes instead. When fraud can be tied into the mail service, it works as a way of “kicking a case upstairs” and getting tougher penalties. The same fraud charge may have been much less serious if it didn’t involve the mail.
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I Never Mailed Anyone a Solicitation, so 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. However, some people are convicted of mail fraud when the mail played only a 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 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. It does not matter 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?
The penalties for mail fraud can be quite significant. Precisely how great these fines are will depend upon many different factors, including the specifics of the case and your criminal history. Even in a minor mail fraud case, though, you are likely going to face large fines, a long term of incarceration, and other penalties.
The fines you could face for a single mail fraud conviction can be as high as $250,000. When a fraud involves federal disaster relief or a financial institution, that fine can increase to one million dollars.
When a mail fraud scheme is successful, and a victim loses property or money as a result, the court will order the defendant to pay restitution to the victims. This money is in addition to any fines that the court may impose.
The potential prison time for most mail fraud cases is up to 20 years in federal prison. However, in certain cases, the prison term can greatly increase. If the fraud involves federal disaster relief or if the victim is a financial institution, the prison term can rise to as many as 30 years.
Instead of jail time, it’s possible in some situations to receive supervised probation. The probationer will be required to comply with a variety of court orders and report to a probation officer. Common conditions of probation include:
- Random home searches
- Random drug tests
- Not committing other crimes
- Not associating with criminals
With the potential to face such harsh penalties, it is critical that you have proper legal representation. Hiring an experienced federal crimes lawyer in Los Angeles will give you the best chance of beating the charges against you.
Mail Fraud Is a White-Collar Crime
Offenses get divided into blue-collar and white-collar crime. Blue-collar crimes account for the majority of criminal activity and are the types of crimes that can easily be witnessed. White-collar crimes, on the other hand, are generally non-violent financial crimes and include fraud and other schemes to break the law to make money, like insider trading.
Many people think the penalties for white-collar crimes are less severe than for blue-collar crimes. However, the opposite is often true. Because most white-collar crimes are prosecuted at the federal level, the punishments are often much harsher.
However, there is one leniency that those convicted of white-collar crimes receive. When facing incarceration, those convicted of a white-collar crime will likely find themselves in minimum-security facilities (commonly known as country club prisons). The conditions in these facilities are often far more relaxed than the restrictions faced by blue-collar criminals.
What Defenses Can I Use in a Mail Fraud Case?
There are several defenses you might use in a federal mail fraud case. The specific argument that your Los Angeles mail fraud attorney chooses to use will depend upon the specifics of your case. There are two defenses that are most commonly used when fighting mail fraud charges.
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 that you recklessly disregarded 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 and are harder to fight than state charges are. That’s why it is important to have a good lawyer with federal criminal experience. Your attorney can help you build a strong case based on the defense that is most likely to succeed in your situation.
How Is Mail Fraud Different from Wire Fraud?
Mail fraud and wire fraud both involve attempts to defraud someone of money or property. It is possible to be charged with both mail fraud and wire fraud for the same scheme as the charges are specifically related to a means by which you committed or communicated about the fraud.
Mail fraud can be charged anytime that the United States Postal Service (USPS) or a private mail carrier was used to further the fraud scheme. Wire fraud is charged when a communication related to the scheme is sent through email, phone call, text message, or fax.
In addition to the different services used with the separate charges, the other big difference between these charges is when they are processed at the federal level. Wire fraud only advances to the federal level if the communication crosses state lines. Mail fraud on the other hand is always a federal crime, even if you are sending mail across the street.
Talk to a Los Angeles Mail Fraud Lawyer for Free
Mail fraud is a serious charge. Do not 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.
Give us a call or fill out our online contact form to schedule a free, no-obligation case evaluation today. One of our Los Angeles Mail Fraud Lawyers will review your case and advise you of all your legal options. We will lay out our plans for your defense and do everything in our power to help you avoid a conviction.
Call or text (310) 896-2723 or complete a Free Case Evaluation form