18 U.S. Code § 1341 - Mail Fraud
Are you caught up in a mail fraud scheme? At the Hedding Law Firm, we can help you and fight on your behalf. Mail fraud is a serious offense and our well seasoned and aggressive criminal defense attorneys have the skill and experience to fight for you! A federal crime conviction will carry severe legal penalties.
Mail Fraud has two main elements: (1) intention to perform a fraudulent act, e.g., forged checks; and (2) using the mail to implement the fraudulent scheme.
The charges for federal mail fraud will differ in severity if the entity convicted is an individual or a business.
Possible Mail Fraud Penalties
- Jail time – individuals up to 20 years, corporations up to 30 years
- Large fines and fees – up to $1,000,000 for violations affecting financial institutions
- Jail time of up to 5 years for using a fake name or address in a fraudulent activity
Mail fraud generally is a charge that is added on to the original charge that brought the case before the judge.
Title 18 USC 1341 says that it is a federal offense to use the mail to carry out a scheme to defraud. Specifically, the statute says the following:
“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……places in any post office or authorized depository for mail matter…… shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both.”
In the case of Schmuck v. US, 489 U.S. 705 (1989), Petitioner used-car distributor was charged with multiple counts of mail fraud. The indictment alleged that he purchased used cars, rolled back their odometers, and sold them to Wisconsin retail dealers at prices artificially inflated by the low-mileage readings, and that the unwitting dealers, relying on the altered readings, resold the cars to customers at inflated prices, consummating the transactions by mailing title-application forms to the State on behalf of the buyers.
Petitioner filed a pretrial motion to dismiss on the ground that the latter mailings were not in furtherance of the fraudulent scheme and, thus, did not satisfy the mailing element of the crime of mail fraud.
The court held the mailings at issue satisfy the mailing element of the crime of mail fraud. Such mailings need not, as petitioner contends, be an essential element of the scheme to defraud, but are sufficient so long as they are incident to an essential part of the scheme.
Description of Federal Mail Fraud
Mail fraud is a federal crime and is defined as the use of the U.S. Postal Service in any criminal attempt to gain money or things of value. By using the Postal Service or other private carrier, the crime is raised to the level of mail fraud and therefore incurs enhanced punishment, which may include a separate federal prosecution for crimes that would otherwise be matters of state jurisdiction.
18 U.S.C. § 1341 provides punishment for anyone involved in an attempt to fraud or swindle who places in a post office to mail any material to be delivered by the Postal Service.
Usually where you're going to see mail fraud case is when somebody is involved in some sort of an illegal scheme to defraud another person or steal money and they're using the mail. That's when the federal government becomes involved, especially if it's from state to state.
The packages are being moved or even if the packages are being moved internationally, that's where you'll see the federal government get involved. If it's something that does not involve a large amount of money or an intricate theft scheme, then that case would likely be passed off if there's criminal activity, to the state government to deal with.
The feds do not take every case. There are a lot of cases when it comes to Los Angeles federal mail fraud because there's a lot of mail moving through Los Angeles county, that the feds just simply don't get involved with.
They could get involved in a lot more cases than they do, but I believe they have a policy of only handling certain cases. Basically, deferring and letting the state government — the District Attorney's Office in Los Angeles County –handle other felony-related matters.
Mail Fraud Scheme Across State Lines
So, where you would probably see the feds getting involved in a mail fraud scheme would be if things were going on between the parties outside of Los Angeles, California.
So, if somebody's contacting somebody in Oregon for example and they're involved in some sort of a fraudulent mail fraud-related scheme, then you might see the feds get involved because it's easier for them to coordinate with different state as far as investigation, getting information and prosecuting somebody.
A lot of times it is the state government because the feds have branches all over the nation obviously, in the FBI, Homeland Security, Drug Enforcement Agency — the list goes on, so they can coordinate with their fellow law enforcement officers in different states.
Whereas, local state police could certainly coordinate with other police officers in other states and they do, but it's not as easy to conduct a sweeping investigation because of time constraints, manpower constraints and funding.
So, that's where if you're trying to figure out why the feds would become involved in a mail fraud case, they would do it because they have the ability to investigate more effectively than the state. If everything is centralized in the state and it doesn't involve a huge amount of loss or fraudulent activity, usually the feds are not going to deal with that type of case.
Federal Prosecution of Mail Fraud
As far as prosecuting mail fraud cases in Los Angeles, California, the feds have prosecutors that would be assigned to a particular case and the types of things they're looking at as far as figuring out what type of a sentence a person might get.
What type of a plea agreement they might offer, they're going to look at the amount of loss that actually occurred and they will also look at the intended loss. This is a little bit of a difficult concept for people to understand.
If there is a mail fraud scheme and the victims lose a million dollars then that would put the person at a certain guideline enhancement. In that same scheme, if the prosecutors can show that there was an attempt for the criminals to obtain five million dollars but they didn't actually get the money, they could try to mount an argument to add extra levels on that person's sentence related to the intended loss — meaning that person intended to take a certain amount of money
They just didn't get the opportunity to do it. So, this is something that is battled and argued all the time in these mail fraud-related cases.
Retain a Federal Mail Fraud Lawyer
Mail fraud is a serious offense that the federal government takes very seriously. If you or someone you know is facing mail fraud charges, then our federal criminal defense attorneys can effectively assist you.
So, if you or a loved one is charged with mail fraud, obviously you want to get to an attorney as fast as possible. Give the attorney the information relating to what they're claiming that you did.
Let that attorney speak to the prosecutor, review all the investigation and discovery related to the case so they can best advise you on what your best course of action is moving forward if you're charged with mail fraud in Los Angeles, California.
Hedding Law Firm is a criminal defense law firm located Los Angeles County at 16000 Ventura Blvd #1208 Encino, CA 91436. Contact us for a free case evaluation at (213) 542-0979.