Mail fraud is considered to be a serious offense on the federal level. Usually, the facts surrounding a mail fraud case will be very complex. It’s important to work with a New York attorney if you’re accused of mail fraud. Mail fraud usually involves a premeditated scheme wherein the defendant communicates through the mail in an attempt to deprive another individual of their property. It’s one of the oldest known crimes in the United States.
Elements Involved in Mail Fraud
You can be accused of mail fraud without being guilty of committing a crime. In criminal court, the prosecutor has to prove that you’ve committed mail fraud. Proof must be presented beyond a reasonable doubt. This means that the prosecutor’s evidence must prove every element of the crime.
In the United States, mail fraud can occur in a number of different ways. It might involve fake promises, misrepresentations, or false pretenses regarding giveaways, exchanges, and loans. The elements that the prosecutor must prove include:
- The defendant engaged in artifice or a scheme to cause the fraud. The prosecutor must present evidence that the defendant had a plan to defraud another person through the mail. They must also prove that the fraud contained some kind of deception, lie, or misrepresentation.
- Whatever misrepresentation was made must be material. This means that a material fact must be relevant. This fact caused the actions of the victim and is considered to be significant. The prosecutor must prove the significance of the material.
- The prosecutor must prove that the defendant was intent on defrauding another individual and has a knowledge about the action. This means that mistakes and reasonable errors will generally not be enough to prove fraud. This is the most difficult element for prosecutors to prove.
- To count as mail fraud, the prosecutor must prove that the fraudulent act was done through the use of the mail.
If the prosecutor cannot prove any of these elements beyond a reasonable doubt, the defendant has a valid defense.
Common Types of Mail Fraud
The methods that a person might use for defrauding are limited only by the imagination of the individual. Common types of fraud are these:
- Financial fraud: An individual will try to obtain private and personal data from the victim such as bank account information or Social Security numbers.
- Elderly fraud: An individual might target elderly people with fake promises about an inheritance or windfall, a false solicitation for health insurance, or a fake outreach from a relative who supposedly needs money.
- Sweepstakes fraud: A person makes a false promise or misrepresents that a large amount has been won by the victim. Before the sum can be handed over, the victim will be required to give sensitive personal data.
- Charity fraud: After a natural disaster, many people want to donate to relief charities. Sometimes, people will set up a fake charity and use the mail to solicit donations. If this fraud occurred during a federal emergency, there may be additional penalties.
Mail Fraud Penalties
Mail fraud is a crime with severe penalties. You might serve prison time on top of needing to pay significant penalties. When you’re convicted, you will generally face a prison sentence of up to twenty years. These penalties can increase when extenuating circumstances play a role. Mail fraud connected to a major disaster could have a fine of one million dollars and a prison sentence of thirty years.
When you’re unsure about what penalties you’re facing, it’s important to talk to an attorney as soon as possible. Mail fraud carries penalties that are just as serious as the penalties for crimes with more publicity. Attorneys will help you understand your rights and provide the best legal defense given the facts of the case.