Mail fraud involves a scheme to defraud for the purpose of obtaining money or property for something to be sent using the U.S. Postal Service.
A federal investigation can usually pinpoint illegal use of the U.S. mail fairly quickly, but proving intent is more difficult and time-consuming.
Understanding mail fraud
Everyone receives junk mail and most of it goes in the wastebasket. However, mail fraud, cleverly done, might tempt the recipient with a brochure for a vacation spot that does not exist, or the opportunity to purchase medications through the mail that are never delivered. Proving mail fraud basically involves showing that in return for payment, the sending of something was promised and the provider knew beforehand that the delivery of the item or service would never occur.
Mail fraud is a federal crime that carries harsh penalties including a prison sentence of up to 20 years. However, if the crime occurs in connection with a presidentially declared emergency or major disaster, or if it affects a financial institution, the fine can be as much as $1,000,000 with a prison term of up to 30 years.
Building a defense strategy
The federal government investigates and prosecutes most white-collar crimes. U.S. Postal Inspectors are also on hand to investigate schemes that originate through the mail, by telephone or even on the internet. Because such investigations are usually lengthy, the time to begin building an effective defense strategy is when a suspected target first becomes aware that an investigation has begun.