What is Mail Fraud?
Facing charges of mail fraud can leave you frightened and anxious about your future. The penalties for mail fraud—which is usually charged as a federal crime—can be extremely serious, sometimes resulting in incarceration in federal prison. Federal crimes can be especially intimidating for those charged, as you will face the full weight and resources of the federal criminal justice system.
You could potentially be charged by the state of Texas, but those charges would be less common. The aggressive criminal defense attorneys at Whalen Law office routinely handle federal and state crimes like mail fraud, so you can rest easy knowing you are well-represented. Our attorneys will take the crushing weight you are feeling from your shoulders, explaining the criminal justice process in an easy-to-understand manner and building a vigorous defense on your behalf.
What is Mail Fraud?
Because it is so broadly applicable, mail fraud is one of the most commonly charged federal crimes. If the mail fraud affected a financial institution or involved benefits related to a declared emergency or major disaster, there may be enhanced penalties that go beyond the usual penalties of up to twenty years in prison. Using mail or any other type of delivery service to engage in fraudulent activities can rise to the level of mail fraud. Federal jurisdiction often applies because mail fraud typically impacts multiple states.
As an example, the mail could be used to communicate a scheme or for mailing contracts. In order to be charged with mail fraud, the individual must be shown to have concocted a scheme to defraud others of their property, money, or other services. The laws do not require that someone suffers actual harm, only that the defendant intended to defraud another person by using a delivery service like the U.S. Postal Service.
In addition to being charged with mail fraud, you could face racketeering charges if you are involved with a group of people who are attempting to defraud others. Racketeering charges are even more serious than mail fraud charges, so take all your charges very seriously and speak to James Whalen and Ryne Sandel from Whalen Law Office as quickly as possible.
What Are the Potential Penalties for Mail Fraud?
As noted, the consequences for a mail fraud conviction are extremely serious, including a prison sentence of up to 20 years, fines as large as $250,000, probation, and restitution. If you are charged under Texas law, your penalty will depend on the amount of the mail fraud.
- If the amount of the mail fraud is less than $100, a Class C misdemeanor will be charged which can result in a $500 fine.
- If the amount is more than $100, but less than $750, a Class B misdemeanor will be charged and can result in up to 180 days in jail and a fine as large as $2,000.
- If the amount is more than $750 but less than $2,500, a Class A misdemeanor will be charged and can result in up to a year in jail and a fine as large as $4,000.
- The offense will be charged as a state jail felony if the amount of the mail fraud is more than $2,500 but less than $30,000 and can result in from 180 days to two years in jail and a fine as large as $10,000.
- A third-degree felony will be charged if the amount of the mail fraud is more than $30,000 but less than $150,000 and can result in two to ten years in prison and a fine as large as $10,000.
- A second-degree felony will be charged if the amount of the mail fraud is more than $150,000 but less than $300,000 and can result in two to twenty years in prison and a fine as large as $10,000.
- If more than one computer is accessed, and the amount of the mail fraud is $300,000 or more, a first-degree felony can be charged which can potentially result in five to ninety-nine years or life in prison, along with a fine as large as $10,000.
Are There Defenses to Charges of Mail Fraud?
While your specific defense will depend on the facts and circumstances surrounding your charges. Some of the more common defenses include:
- You had no intent to defraud. As an example, if you told a lie in a letter you sent to someone, then that in and of itself cannot be considered fraudulent. You must make a false statement with the intent to cheat someone out of their property or money. Exaggerations do not rise to the level of a false statement—i.e., if a car dealer sends out a promotional flyer advertising a car as being the “fastest on the market,” this is generally considered an exaggeration rather than a clear intent to defraud.
- You must have known that the statements you made were false—in other words, if you believed what you stated was true, then you cannot be convicted of mail fraud because you did not intend to lie and by extension defraud.
- The false misrepresentation or promise you made must be “material,” or a statement that another person relied on, rather than a statement about something that is relatively trivial. Material representations are untrue statements made with the specific intent to cheat or trick another person.
- The use of the mail was not related to the fraudulent scheme. If you did commit fraud, if the mail was not used to commit that fraud, then you cannot be charged with mail fraud.
- Evidence against you was illegally obtained. Even the federal government must obtain a warrant in order to collect evidence through searches and wiretaps. Your attorney may be able to have the evidence suppressed if your constitutional rights were violated by an unwarranted search and seizure.
Your attorney may be able to reduce your sentence by focusing on the calculation of the loss amount under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. Sentencing is determined by these guidelines which can be complex and are often amended by Congress. A creative argument for a more favorable application of the guidelines can significantly reduce your federal sentence.
How a White-Collar Criminal Defense Attorney from Whalen Law Office Can Help
Mail fraud is considered a white-collar crime, described by the FBI as an illegal act characterized by deceit, concealment, or violation of trust…” The legal consequences of a white-collar criminal conviction can be severe. It can be extremely beneficial to have an experienced criminal defense attorney from Whalen Law Office on your side, fighting for you every step of the way.
Having a strong advocate who is highly experienced in criminal defense, specifically white-collar charges, can truly make a difference in the outcome of your mail fraud charges. We handle both federal and state charges and will formulate a comprehensive defense strategy that will mitigate your liability. Being found guilty of fraud can cause significant damage to your reputation and your finances—contact the Whalen Law Office today.