18 U.S. Code § 1342 - Fictitious Name or Address
The federal crime of mail fraud and related offenses can result in harsh legal consequences that can have a life-changing impact on your personal and professional career.
Most people understand that it's a federal crime to use the United States Mail System (USPS) or a private carrier, such as UPS or FedEx, to carry out a fraudulent scheme defined under the 18 U.S.C. 1341 mail fraud statute.
However, many people are unaware that using a fictitious name or address to carry out a fraudulent scheme is also a separate federal offense, defined under 18 U.S.C. 1342. Simply put, this federal law makes it a crime to use a false name for the purposes of carrying out a fraud scheme or for other unlawful business.
18 U.S.C. 1342 says, “Whoever, for the purpose of conducting, promoting, or carrying on by means of the Postal Service, any scheme or device mentioned in section 1341 of this title or any other unlawful business, uses or assumes, or requests to be addressed by, any fictitious, false, or assumed title, name, or address or name other than his own proper name, or takes or receives from any post office or authorized depository of mail matter, any letter, postal card, package, or other mail matter addressed to any such fictitious, false, or assumed title, name, or address, or name other than his own proper name, shall be fined and….”
Federal law broadly defines unlawful fraud and swindles to include using a fictitious name or address through the post office in any fraud schemes.
What Does the Law Say?
As noted, Title 18 U.S. Code 1342 prohibits using a fictitious name or address in any matter related to the United States Postal Service (USPS) or private carriers.
Notably, this law covers sending, delivering, or receiving mail, packages, or other communications, which is primarily designed to prevent the following:
This federal law attempts to preserve the integrity of the U.S. mail system and assure trust with the general public. Simply put, it makes it a crime to use fictitious information, and the law gives federal prosecutors a valuable tool to pursue an indictment for fraud-related activity that is often challenging to prove.
Suppose a prosecutor cannot gather enough evidence to convict someone under the more serious mail fraud charges defined under 18 U.S.C. 1341, which carries up to 20 years in federal prison. In that case, they might pursue the lesser crime of 18 U.S.C. 1342 using a fake name or address, which carries up to five years in federal prison.
What Factors Must Be Proven for a Conviction?
Title 18 U.S. Code 1342 explicitly makes it a federal offense to carry out a fraudulent scheme or other unlawful business, such as the following:
- Using or assuming a fictitious or false name or address that is directly related to sending or receiving mail; or
- Receiving or collecting any mail or packages sent using a fake name or address through USPS or other carriers.
Thus, to convict you of this federal offense, prosecutors have to be able to prove, beyond any reasonable doubt, all of the elements of the crime, including that you did all of the following:
- Knowingly and willfully used a fictitious name, address, or title;
- Acted in direct connection with mail communication; and
- To carry out a fraudulent scheme or other unlawful business.
Suppose you are convicted of violating Title 18 U.S. Code 1342. In that case, you face up to five years in the Federal Bureau of Prisons, a fine of up to $250,000, or both.
What Are the Related Federal Offenses?
18 U.S. Code Chapter 63 mail fraud and other fraud offenses have numerous federal laws that are related to 18 U.S.C. 1342 fictitious name and address, such as the following:
- 18 U.S.C. 1341 – fraud and swindles;
- 18 U.S.C. 1343 – fraud by wire, radio, or television;
- 18 U.S.C. 1344 – bank fraud;
- 18 U.S.C. 1345 – injunctions against fraud;
- 18 U.S.C. 1346 – definition of a scheme to defraud;
- 18 U.S.C. 1347 – health care fraud;
- 18 U.S.C. 1348 – securities and commodities fraud;
- 18 U.S.C. 1349 – attempt and conspiracy;
- 18 U.S.C. 1350 – failure of corporate officers to certify financial reports;
- 18 U.S.C. 1351 – fraud in foreign labor contracting.
What Are the Defenses for 18 U.S.C. 1342?
Suppose you are under investigation or indicted for using a fictitious name or address for fraud. In that case, you will need a federal criminal defense attorney who can use the strategies discussed below.
Maybe we can argue that there was a lack of intent to defraud or engage in unlawful business. Notably, using a fake name or address is not a crime by itself.
This statute makes it a crime to use fictitious names or addresses with the intent of committing fraud or other criminal actions. Thus, if you can prove no fraudulent intent, you can likely avoid a conviction.
Maybe we can argue there was a mistake of fact, such as making an honest mistake in providing a false name or address without intent to deceive or defraud.
This type of legal defense could apply if you accidentally provided incorrect information or were unaware that the information was false.
Maybe we can argue that the accusations are false by showing that you did engage in illegal conduct or that the accuser has the motive to implicate the defendant falsely.
We offer a free case evaluation by phone or via the contact form. We provide legal representation for federal criminal issues across the United States. The Hedding Law Firm has offices in Los Angeles, California.