Mail Fraud Crimes

Mail fraud can be a confusing criminal concept. Often, an individual is not aware of the extent of the fraudulent activity they are involved in and are required to hire a lawyer to resolve the potential crime committed.

What is Mail Fraud?

To understand mail fraud, you must understand the legal definition of fraud. Fraud is an intentional misrepresentation of material, existing fact made by one person to another, with knowledge of its falsity and for inducing the other person to act, upon which the other person relies with resulting injury or damage.

According to Title 18 U.S.C. SECTION 1341, two elements comprise mail fraud and separate it from other forms of fraud:

  1. Having devised or intending to devise a scheme to defraud (or to perform specified fraudulent acts)
  2. Use of the mail for the purpose of executing, or attempting to execute, the scheme (or specified fraudulent acts)

Are there different types of mail fraud?

Mail fraud schemes are created to take advantage of citizens in many ways, so there are different types of mail fraud that attempt to deceive Americans.

According to the United States Postal Inspection Service, the most common include:

Financial Fraud: This the broadest form of mail fraud. Financial fraud really encapsulates all types of fraud that involve illegally gaining funds through manipulation and fraud.

Employment Fraud: Employment scams often advertise fake job opportunities that are enticing to some individuals trying to enter the job market. Individuals can steal your identity and money while you are under the impression of receiving employment.

Fraud against Veterans: Veterans often receive benefits from the government, or special access to programs because of their service in the military. Individuals take advantage of this by creating false programs that advertise to veterans. According to the Federal Trade Commission, the median loss to fraud for active duty members is $775, and retired veterans is $950. The FTC received 163,000 fraud reports from military retirees and veterans and nearly 13,000 from active duty servicemembers from 2015-2019.

Fraud against the Elderly: Elderly citizens are targeted the most by mail fraud schemes. According to the Federal Trade Commission, “people from all age groups reported median individual losses of about $2,000 to family and friend imposters – far higher than the median loss of $462 reported to us this year for all fraud types. But the story is much worse for people 70 and over who sent cash – they reported median individual losses of $9,000.” The elderly are most vulnerable to such fraud. 

Lottery Fraud: Lottery scams are often found in the mail claiming that you have won a prize or some amount of money. Yet, these fraudulent notifications often come with requests for money to pay taxes and fees before you can claim your prize. This can continue for weeks, months or even years. In the end, there is no prize and thousands of dollars could be lost. In 2007, the FTC reported that 3.2 million Americans were affected by lottery fraud.

What is the difference between a Ponzi and Pyramid scheme?

Ponzi Scheme: Ponzi schemes are investment-based scams. “Investors” will give money to a “portfolio manager” promising high returns. When investors want the money they invested, they are paid by other investors’ initial investment. In other words, the portfolio manager is not actually investing your funds, but rather paying you back with other people’s money. These are often found in the mail advertising high returns with no risk, but have unlicensed sellers, paperwork issues and other red flags.

Pyramid Scheme: Pyramid schemes are investment-based scams that rely on the recruitment of investors. The initial schemer must recruit other investors who will continue to recruit other investors, and those investors will then continue to recruit additional investors, and so on. Individuals are motivated by some unique access to an “investment opportunity.” Pyramid schemes make money by receiving money from investors for access to this “investment opportunity” they provide. It is harder to break pyramid schemes because they sell products, whereas Ponzi schemes are mostly based on false investment opportunities.

Does email fraud count as mail fraud?

Mail fraud is its own specific crime because of the utilization of the United States Postal Service to deliver false and fraudulent information. While mail fraud is a widely applicable crime, it does not apply in all fraud cases.

What must be proven to convict someone of mail fraud?

According to 18 U.S.C. 1341, the following elements must be satisfied to convict someone of mail fraud:

  • The defendant must have been engaged in a scheme to defraud
  • The scheme must have involved material misstatements or omissions
  • The scheme resulted, or would have resulted upon completion, in the loss of money, property, or honest services
  • The defendant must have used of U.S. Mail in furtherance of scheme to defraud
  • The defendant used or caused the use of U.S. Mail.

What are the penalties for mail fraud?

The penalties for mail fraud are severe as it can cause significant financial damage to individuals.

Although penalties are determined on a case-by-case basis, each offense can result in a sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison. The prison time could be elevated up to 30 years depending on specific elements of the case. A good example of an elevated jail time possibility would be mail fraud for disaster relief or fraud against a financial institution. On top of jail time, convicted offenders usually receive 1-3 years of supervised released after serving their sentence.

Fines are also very high in mail fraud cases. A single count of mail fraud can cost up to $250,000 and restitution amounts can go far higher.

What can Gary Tabakman do to defend me?

It is always a good idea to consult with an experienced lawyer to get an understanding of your situation. To speak to Gary Tabakman about your unique legal situation, call 713-331-9457 today to schedule a free initial consultation and case evaluation.