Mail Fraud Charges
In Florida, most crimes involving fraud are prosecuted in state court. However, certain types of fraud, such as mail fraud are prosecuted aggressively at the federal level. A conviction for committing an act of mail fraud is serious and carries the threat of an extended sentence in a federal prison, so if you or a loved one are being investigated for or charged with mail fraud, it is critical to retain the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney who is well-versed in federal law and can help you formulate a strong defense.
Elements of Mail Fraud
To be convicted of mail fraud, the prosecutor must establish that the defendant:
- Intentionally devised a fraudulent scheme; and
- Used or attempted to use the U.S. mail service or other interstate carrier, such as FedEx or UPS to further that scheme.
Because the statute is worded so broadly, a variety of activities could constitute a felony offense under this category, including:
- Fraudulent sales;
- Debt-collection schemes;
- Fraudulent loan offers;
- Transporting counterfeit items; and
- Fraudulent contests and charities.
As long as a person used the U.S. mail to further an intent to defraud, the act can constitute mail fraud.
Mail fraud Penalties
The penalties for a mail fraud conviction can be very severe and include prison sentences of up to 20 years in federal prison and fines of up to $250,000. However, if a fraudulent scheme involved a presidentially declared disaster area or a financial institution, the penalty increases to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $1,000,000. A mere attempt at conspiracy to commit mail fraud is punishable to the same degree. In fact, a person does not need to mail a document or item him or herself to be convicted of mail fraud. Under federal law, using another person to perpetrate a fraudulent scheme by sending something through the mail is also considered mail fraud.
A conviction for mail fraud may also result in a probation term, requiring offenders to abide by court conditions, such as reporting to a probation officer and submitting to home searches and random drug tests. Those convicted of mail fraud must also pay restitution to victims who lost money as a result of the fraudulent scheme. Restitution is often made a condition of probation.
There are a number of defenses that an individual charged with mail fraud can raise, including that he or she:
- Did not intend to defraud anyone;
- Did not send or ask another person to send a document through an interstate mailing system;
- Sent mailings that offered a legitimate service or product and so were not fraudulent; and
- Sent mailings that did not contain any material misrepresentations that would cause a recipient to take further action.
Contact an Experienced South Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer
A conviction for mail fraud can have far-reaching consequences, including extensive jail time and heavy fines, so if you live in south Florida and have been charged with mail fraud, please contact Jeffrey S. Weiner, P.A. Criminal Defense Attorneys at 305-670-9919 to schedule a free consultation with an experienced attorney who can help defend your interests.