Mail fraud is a broad category of crimes that includes any attempt (successful or otherwise) to commit some form of fraud, and includes the use of any mail system. You can be charged with mail fraud if the authorities believe you intentionally tried to defraud another party through the United States Postal Service, or other private mail carrier.
For example, some unethical persons may attempt to lure victims through the mail to participate in illegal schemes. Confidential information (as for insider trading) might be illegally revealed through the mail. Whatever the case may be, for the action to be considered mail fraud, it must concern something “material”: That is, it must concern material goods or money, and be significant. Mail fraud is a federal crime, and in the case of conviction, the consequences are frequently very serious.
Mail Fraud Penalties
The federal government takes mail fraud offenses seriously. Penalties may include:
- Prison time. Any mail fraud offense can carry up to 20 years in federal prison, but the sentence imposed may be even harsher under certain circumstances. For example, attempting to misappropriate federal funds allocated for disaster relief, or attempting to defraud a financial institution, can tack on ten years to the prison sentence.
- Probation. Short of incarceration, a judge can sentence a defendant to probation. For a specified period of time, the person convicted of mail fraud will be forced to accept certain curtails of his or her liberties. This may include regularly meeting with a probation officer, submitting to home searches, or restricting associations with certain persons.
- Fines. Mail fraud fines are common, and very high. Even a single count of mail fraud can result in a fine of $250,000. As with incarceration, fines can be steeper depending on the type of fraud committed.
- If the mail fraud attempt was successful, the court will typically require the perpetrator to make restitution to the victims so they can recover what they lost in a fraudulent scheme. Restitution payments are separate from (and often in addition to) any fines, and may be incorporated into the probation plan.
In addition, a conviction remains on the perpetrator’s record and may have far reaching consequences, even after the prison sentence was served or the fines paid. Felons can be barred from certain types of employment, and could be restricted from travel.
What to Do if You Are Being Investigated for Mail Fraud
If you are being charged with mail fraud, exercise your right to remain silent, and immediately connect with a criminal defense lawyer. Do not speak with investigators, even if you believe you did nothing illegal and are completely innocent. Unfortunately, you put yourself at serious risk if you agree to an interview with federal investigators without counsel at your side. Choose an attorney who is experienced with mail fraud cases and has a proven track record in this area of the law.
If you believe you are being investigated for mail fraud, or have already been charged, contact the attorneys at the Law Offices of Omar Gastelum & Associates, PLC so we can review your case.