Mail Fraud | Legal Definition
Mail fraud occurs when a person participates in or creates a scheme to defraud or take money or goods from someone else using mail services, which include commercial interstate mail carriers, the U.S. Postal Services, and any other type of mail carrier, to advance the scheme (see 18 U.S.C. § 1341). Regardless of whether you actually send them mail (or simply participate in other aspects of the scheme) or the scheme’s success, you can face mail fraud charges.
Examples of Mail Fraud
Some real-life mail fraud case examples include:
- Christopher Phillips | Mail Fraud & Identity Theft. Phillips is a former Newport News, VA resident that was sentenced to three years in prison for mail fraud in December 2020. Phillips reportedly stole mail from unknowing victims and used the information included in the mail to open lines of credit and bank accounts in the victims’ names. Victims never learned of the new accounts because Phillips tracked and intercepted mail concerning the new accounts. Using the new accounts, Phillips purchased goods and services totaling about $35,000. At least 12 people were victims of this scheme; however, according to investigators, there could be more victims because they found more stolen mail and electronic devices that point to more victims.
- Christopher K. Guy | Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud, Wire Fraud, & Other Federal Offenses. In June 2021, Christopher Guy of Tampa, Florida was indicted for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud as well as aggravated identity theft, possession of unauthorized devices, and access device fraud. For four months, Guy and his co-conspirators applied for unemployment benefits using stolen identities, and they listed the applicants’ mailing addresses as that of a member of the conspiracy to obtain prepaid debit cards. Taking advantage of the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program, they received over $176,970 in unemployment funds. According to the indictment, Guy also used 15 debit cards issued to seven victims for over $10,000 worth of transactions.
- Gary Denkberg & Sean Novis | Mass Mail Fraud Scheme. In May 2022, Novis and Denkberg were convicted of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud, aiding and abetting other mail fraud schemes, and fraudulent use of fictitious names. From January 2003 to September 2016, the duo conned thousands of people, primarily the elderly and other vulnerable victims, into giving them money by falsely promising prizes/rewards. Novis and Denkberg mailed millions of prize and contest notices that fraudulently claimed that the victims were winners of large cash prizes and had to pay a fee to receive the payout. However, after paying, no one received any money. Sentencing is still pending, but they both face up to 20 years of imprisonment and hefty fines.
Penalties for Mail Fraud
Mail fraud is a federal, white-collar offense that is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and $250,000 in fines. If the offense involves a financial institution or presidential declaration of emergency or disaster, the penalties can be enhanced to up to 30 years in prison and up to $1 million in fines. It is also important to note that if you are charged with multiple counts of mail fraud, each count carries its own penalties.
Mail fraud is also often prosecuted alongside another type of fraud or white-collar crime, including bribery, extortion, healthcare fraud, or identity theft. These offenses also carry penalties of their own.
With over 20 years of legal experience, The Wiseman Law Firm can help you build a solid defense against mail fraud charges. If you or a loved one have been charged with or are under investigation for mail fraud, call (407) 708-9127 or reach out online to speak with our attorney today.