Federal Mail Fraud Charges

This article provides very general cursory information of Federal Mail Fraud Statute, one of the most widely used in white collar criminal prosecutions. I’ve put it in an easy to read Q&A format. Federal criminal charges are an extremely serious matter for which qualified legal help must be sought immediately.

Question. What is federal mail fraud statutes?
Answer. Mail and Fraud charges are the most commonly tools federal prosecutors use in federal criminal white collar cases. The mail fraud statute involves (1) a ”scheme to defraud,” and (2) a use of the mails ”for the purpose of executing” the scheme Whistleblower Lawyer New York City.

The current statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1341 (2004) provides as follows: ”Whoever, having devised or intending to devise any scheme or artifice to defraud, or for obtaining money or property by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises, or to sell, dispose of, loan, exchange, alter, give away, distribute, supply, or furnish or procure for unlawful use any counterfeit or spurious coin, obligation, security, or other article, or anything represented to be or intimated or held out to be such counterfeit or spurious article, for the purpose of executing such scheme or artifice or attempting so to do, places in any post office or authorized depository for mail matter, any matter or thing whatever to be sent or delivered by the Postal Service, or deposits or causes to be deposited any matter or thing whatever to be sent or delivered by any private or commercial interstate carrier, or takes or receives therefrom, any such matter or thing, or knowingly causes to be delivered by mail or such carrier according to the direction thereon, or at the place at which it is directed to be delivered by the person to whom it is addressed, any such matter or thing, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both. If the violation affects a financial institution, such person shall be fined not more than $ 1,000,000 or imprisoned not more than 30 years, or both.”

Question: What is “‘Use” of the Mails?
Answer: Each use of the federal mails constitutes a separate offense and each mailing is a separate count in the indictment.”Mail” includes Federal Express and other commercial carriers. While each mailing constitutes a separate offense, the government is permitted to base a single count on any number of mailings. To be in violation of this statutes, it is enough to mail anything or ”knowingly cause” anything to be mailed. There is a five-year statute of limitation, so if the mailing occurred more than five years earlier, no violation of the mail fraud statute may be charged even if the scheme continued to within the limitations period.

Question: What is “‘In Furtherance of” the Scheme?
Answer: Just because the defendant “used the mails” during a scheme to defraud is not enough to convict him of mail fraud. The mailing must be ”for the purpose of executing” or ”in furtherance of ” the scheme to defraud. There must be logical connection between the scheme and the specific mailing. In other words, mailing should be part of the plot.

Question: What is Scheme to Defraud
Answer: To prove a violation of Section 1341, the government must prove that the defendant had the specific intent to defraud, not just to have participated in an scheme. The government must show the defendant’s willful participation in a scheme with knowledge of the fraudulent nature and with the intent that the illicit objectives be achieved. The government will try to prove that the defendant was a knowing participant in the scheme to defraud. In some cases, it is not difficult to prove intent to defraud, especially where the defendant devised the scheme. In other cases the intent is less evident but the government still must prove that the defendant participated in the scheme with knowledge of the fraud.

Question: Should the Scheme to Defraud be Successful?
Answer: No. All the government needs to show is that defendant engaged in fraudulent activity intended to accomplish a deprivation of money or property, and used the mails in furtherance of the scheme. For example, In US v. Helmsley, the defendant was convicted of tax fraud and mail fraud based on the submission of false and fraudulent tax returns. The defendant argued that convictions could not stand because the government could not show that any taxes were actually due to the state Government Fraud Lawyer New York City. The Second Circuit court in New York held that ”the absence of proof of taxes due to New York state is immaterial because success of a scheme to defraud is not required.’

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