As defined by 18 U.S.C. § 1341, mail fraud occurs when an individual participates in or devises a scheme to intentionally defraud or obtain money, property, or goods under false pretenses and uses mail services (i.e. the U.S. Postal Service, a private mail carrier, or commercial interstate mail carrier) to further the scheme. Mail fraud can include mailing any of the following items through the mail with fraudulent information or deals:
- Giveaways or contests
- Other communications
Whether the scheme is successful or not has no bearing on whether you can be charged and/or convicted of mail fraud; simply intending to defraud or obtain money or goods in a mail fraud scheme is a crime. It is also important to note that even if you are not the sender, you can face mail fraud charges if you knowingly participate in the scheme.
Mail fraud is often prosecuted in connection with other white-collar crime cases, including but not limited to:
Types of Mail Fraud
Common types of mail fraud schemes include:
- Heath insurance fraud. This scheme involves sending individuals letters asking for personal information or money regarding Medicare insurance, ambulance fees, mental healthcare costs, etc. that is false or misleading.
- Land fraud. This scheme involves sending false real estate information or deals (i.e., the contract or land is fake, the land is not worth the listed price, etc.) to seniors or potential home buyers that are false or misleading.
- Inheritance scam. The scheme involves sending communications claiming that the recipient is the sole heir to an estate (and this is untrue). To receive the inheritance, they are asked to share personal information and/or pay a fee.
- Contest fraud. This scheme can involve the recipients receiving communications claiming they’ve won a giveaway or contest that isn’t real. To receive their prize, they have to pay a small fee or share their banking information.
- Charitable giving fraud. This scheme can involve sending letters asking for donations to fake charities or organizations. Targets for these schemes are often senior citizens, veterans, or voters during election season.
- Small business scam. This scheme can involve sending small business owners fake letters that ask for money to officially register their business or maintain their license.
- Employment scheme. This scheme involves offering unemployed individuals a fake opportunity to earn money (through investments, by retaining a fake employment agency, etc.) after paying a small fee.
Examples of Mail Fraud Cases
The Office of United States Attorney General prosecutes mail fraud cases, and examples of these cases include:
- Kush Ghanshyam Patel. In February 2020, Patel was indicted for two counts of mail fraud after attempting to defraud his employer. Using his corporate credit care, Patel charged over $350,000 for fraudulent purchases, including roundtrip flights, expensive shoes, and more.
- Dayna Alexander and Alicia A. Roberts. In October 2020, Alexander and Roberts were charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud. Alexander allegedly combed through recent obituaries to obtain personal information and redirect the decedent’s mail to a new address. Alexander then forwarded checks and debit card information to the new addresses and opened up new bank accounts with the decedent’s information. Alexander wrote checks from these accounts to herself and her coconspirators (including Roberts).
- Staccato Powell and Sheila Quintana. In January 2022, Powell and Quintana appeared in court to face wire fraud, mail fraud, and conspiracy charges after allegedly conspiring to defraud AME Zion Church congregations. Allegedly, the pair planned to re-deed local congregations’ properties to Western Episcopal District, Inc. (a business they formed and were officers of).
Mail Fraud Penalties
Mail fraud convictions carry penalties of up to 20 years of imprisonment and/or heavy fines. These penalties apply to each count of mail fraud, and penalties can be enhanced if the fraud involves a financial institution.
Contact Hubbs Law Firm Today
Proving mail fraud can be challenging, and with the help of an experienced attorney, alleged offenders can develop a solid defense strategy to mitigate or avoid potential penalties. To substantiate a claim that someone has committed mail fraud, prosecutors must prove that the accused:
- Acted with the intent to defraud or obtain money or goods by fraud
- Created or conspired to create a scheme or artifice to defraud (or acquired property or good by fraud)
- Used the postal system for correspondence involving the scheme
If you have been accused of mail fraud, the attorneys at Hubbs Law Firm are equipped to help you devise a solid strategy and protect your rights. Contact our team online today or call (305) 376-7178 to speak with a member of our team. We offer free initial consultations.