Mail Fraud

18 U.S.C. § 1341 – Federal Crime of Mail Fraud

Mail fraud under 18 U.S.C. 1341 is when somebody makes false representations or promises, intending to defraud, using the mail to execute the scheme.

Mail fraud is closely related to 18 U.S.C. 1343 wire fraud, when somebody intentionally defrauds another person using wire communication, such as any electronic communication (internet).

18 U.S.C. § 1341 – Mail Fraud
18 U.S.C. 1341 mail fraud is using the mail system to execute a scheme to defraud someone.

To convict someone of mail fraud, a federal prosecutor must prove that the defendant made materially false representations or promises with the intent to defraud and they used the mail to accomplish the crime.

18 U.S.C. 1343 says, “Whoever, having devised or intending to devise any scheme or artifice to defraud, or for obtaining money or property by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises, or to sell, dispose of, loan, exchange, alter, give away, distribute, supply, or furnish or procure for unlawful use any counterfeit or spurious coin, obligation, security, or another article, or anything represented to be or intimated or held out to be such counterfeit or spurious article, to execute such scheme or artifice or attempt so to do, places in any post office or authorized depository for mail matter, any matter or thing whatever to be sent or delivered by the Postal Service….”

Federal mail fraud law 18 U.S.C. 1341 applies to the United States Postal Service and private commercial carriers, such as UPS and FedEx.

If convicted of mail fraud, you face up to 20 years in a federal prison, fines, and victim restitution. Let's review this federal statute further below.

What Is Mail Fraud?

The mail fraud statute under 18 U.S.C. 1341 is an often complex law due to the elements of crime, which include the following:  

  • A defendant devised or intended to devise a scheme to defraud or perform certain fraudulent acts; and
  • They used the mail to execute or attempt to execute a scheme or those certain fraudulent acts.

The related crime of 18 U.S.C. 1342 adds to the mail fraud crime of using a fictitious name or address in a fraudulent scheme, which says, “Whoever, to conduct on using the Postal Service, any scheme in section 1341 uses or assumes, or requests to be addressed by, any fictitious, false, or assumed title, name, or address or name other than his proper name, or takes or receives mail matter, any letter, postal card, package, addressed to any such fictitious, false, or assumed title, name, or address, or name other than his proper name, shall be….”

What Is Mail Fraud?
Federal mail fraud charges are typically complex due to the specific elements of the crime.

18 U.S.C. 1341 and 1342 refer to fraudulent schemes that mean they know the false representations will induce someone to rely upon them to their detriment and cause them a loss.  

The crime of fraud can apply to many types of people and conduct, including reputable borrowers and lenders, buyers and sellers, and others who regularly engage in large complex transactions. Mail Fraud is punishable by imprisonment in the Federal Bureau of Prisons for 20 years, a fine, or both.

However, suppose the mail fraud case involved a federally declared disaster, such as sending false solicitations with intent to defraud disaster victims, or if it affected a financial institution. In that case, the penalties include a $1,000,000 fine, 30 years in prison, or both.

What Are the Related Federal Crimes?

18 U.S. Code Chapter 63 Mail Fraud and other Fraud Offenses has several federal laws related to 18 U.S. Code 1341 fraud and swindles, such as the following:

  • 18 U.S.C. 1342 – Fictitious name or address;
  • 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 scheme or artifice to defraud;
  • 18 U.S.C. 1347 – Healthcare 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 reports;
  • 18 U.S.C. 1351 – Fraud in foreign labor contracting.

Defending Mail Fraud Charges

A successful defense against 18 U.S.C. 1341 federal mail fraud charges could depend on enforcing constitutional rights, due process, fair and speedy trial, rights against self-incrimination, and illegal search and seizure. Perhaps we could obtain suppression of evidence and dismissal of charges.  

Defending federal mail fraud charges often requires challenging the elements of the crime for the alleged fraud. Prosecutors have the burden of proof for all the details beyond a reasonable doubt.

Defending Federal Mail Fraud Charges
Contact our federal defense lawyers for guidance.

Federal criminal defense lawyers can use different strategies for the best possible outcome. Perhaps we can argue that there was no fraudulent intent or that the statements were not knowingly false.

Perhaps we can argue that the false representation was not material or that the use of mail was unrelated to a fraudulent scheme. Maybe we can say that law enforcement acquired the seized evidence illegally.

A federal prosecutor must prove the defendant's specific intent that they knew and were intending to defraud, which is often challenging. Perhaps we can challenge the prosecution's specific-intent evidence to raise reasonable doubt and to avoid any conviction.

As noted, it must be proven that the information conveyed through the mail was false and that it was intended that the victim rely on that incorrect information.

Perhaps the inaccurate information was so minor that it made no difference to the person on the other side of the transaction. Immaterial misstatements of fact cannot generally form the basis for a federal criminal mail fraud charge. Contact our law firm for a free case evaluation if you have been accused of mail fraud. The Hedding Law Firm is located in Los Angeles, California.

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