Californians who are charged with mail fraud could face serious penalties. Because mail fraud is a federal crime, convictions are sentenced under the federal sentencing guidelines and can result in years in prison and stiff fines. The federal government prosecutes mail fraud because it involves mail delivery across state lines and interstate commerce.
Mail fraud defined
Mail fraud is a type of white-collar crime that occurs when someone uses the mail, including the U.S. Postal Service or a private interstate mail carrier, to further a fraud scheme. It can involve a scheme to try to obtain money under false pretenses or to distribute, use, exchange or sell counterfeit goods. Mail fraud can be charged whenever someone mails something connected to the fraud scheme, including receipts, advertisements, fraudulent contracts and other communications to further the scheme.
If someone is convicted of mail fraud, he or she could face up to 20 years in prison. If the scheme involves a federally declared disaster or a financial institution, the penalties include up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million.
Famous cases involving mail fraud convictions include Charles Ponzi and Bernie Madoff. Ponzi’s scheme involved postal coupons that reportedly netted him $1 million per day. He was sentenced to five years in prison in 1920. Madoff’s scheme defrauded investors out of millions. He was sentenced to 150 years on 11 counts.
Like other types of white-collar crimes, mail fraud is treated seriously by government prosecutors. People who learn that they are being investigated for mail fraud should take immediate steps to begin building defenses against the allegations against them. Because of the sentencing guidelines under federal law, convictions in federal court frequently carry much longer sentences than convictions in state court, making it important to defend against the charges.