Mail fraud is one of the most common state and federal white-collar crimes. If you have been charged with mail fraud in Illinois, you could receive years in prison. Talk to our Chicago mail fraud lawyer at Law Offices of Vadim A. Glozman today for legal assistance.
Mail Fraud Definition
Mail fraud is the intentional deception of others with a scheme for monetary or personal gain using the US postal system, FedEx, or another carrier. Mailing funds, contracts, communications, or anything of value to further a fraudulent deal or scheme all meet the definition of mail fraud. The person who mailed the item may be charged with mail fraud and those who knowingly participated.
The mailed items do not necessarily need to go over state lines for there to be a federal offense; mail services are a form of interstate commerce. The US Constitution’s Commerce Clause gives the federal government jurisdiction if they are used to commit fraud.
Mail Fraud Penalties
Mail fraud is a state and federal crime, and you can get severe penalties for a conviction. In some cases, the convicted party can receive 20 or 30 years in prison at the federal level and a $250,000 fine. In Illinois, mail fraud is a Class 3 felony, punishable by five to 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine. You also will probably get at least one to three years of probation in addition to or instead of jail time.
Additionally, if your fraud succeeded in defrauding the victim, you may be required to make restitution. Restitution payments are provided to the victims to regain what they lost. These payments are in addition to fines. The US government can also confiscate crime proceeds via the forfeiture process.
Also, if you enacted a mail fraud scheme with the help of others, it is possible to be charged under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). You face additional prison time and fines if you are convicted under RICO.
Common Types Of Mail Fraud
Many types of fraud can be charged as mail fraud if they use the US postal system or another carrier to enact the scheme. They include:
- Insurance fraud
- Election fraud
- Real estate fraud
- Healthcare fraud
- Sweepstakes fraud
- Charitable giving fraud
- Inheritance scams
- Land fraud
- Marketing and charity scams
- Investment fraud
- Kickbacks and bribery
Mail fraud can be applicable to many crimes and schemes, but it does not apply to every type of fraud. If you used email or text to convince someone to invest in real estate and stole the money, this is probably wire or computer fraud, not mail fraud.
Possible Mail Fraud Defenses
A state or federal mail fraud charge is a serious matter. But there are effective defenses available:
You Did Not Intend To Defraud
The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you had intent, but this is challenging to prove. After all, proving you intended to defraud using the mail system means demonstrating your state of mind or that you wanted to defraud the victim. If this cannot be proven, the charges could be dropped.
You Did Not Use The Mail
Even if you did something illegal involving fraud, the mail must have been used in some way for a mail fraud conviction. There should be evidence of using the mail. Such as tracking numbers, mail receipts, or postal worker testimony. The charges could be dismissed if there is no evidence that you used the mail.
In many criminal cases, the police’s actions during the arrest can be questioned. Even if you engaged in mail fraud, the evidence may not be admissible in court if the evidence was illegally obtained.
How To Avoid Mail Fraud
If you suspect someone is trying to commit mail fraud against you, there are ways you can avoid this problem. They are:
Take Notice Of Excessive Urgency
If you get something in the mail from a government agency or financial institution, they give you time to respond by mail, email, or phone. Mail that states you must act immediately is usually a scam because they want you to act quickly without thinking.
Verify The Sender
It is easy for fraudsters to fake stationary and create phony mail that looks real. If you get mail that wants you to make an unexpected payment or take an action that does not make sense, do not rely on the contact information in the document. Look up who the sender is online and confirm if the communication is real.
Any deal in the mail that sounds too good to be true is a red flag. If you respond to a mail offer that promises great things, find out if the offer is legitimate. Search the Internet for the organization’s name offering the pitch and see if it is a real organization.
Get Informed Delivery
In many areas of the US, the postal service offers informed delivery that provides emailed images of your mail before it arrives. It is scanned through your post office’s mail-sorting machines. This can help you avoid fraud in several ways. First, it will tell you about mail that you should get. If you do not receive it, the mail may have been stolen. Second, if you are unsure if the piece of mail is legitimate, you can forward the image to someone who can investigate it.
Do Not Rely On Mailed Checks
The fewer checks you get in the mail, the better. When you can have any paychecks, bills, or government benefits deposited to or withdrawn from your bank account automatically.
Contact Our Chicago Mail Fraud Lawyer Now
If you are hit with a state or federal mail fraud charge, you need a skilled criminal defense attorney today. As soon as you know are being investigated or charged with this crime, retain a lawyer. Talking to state or federal investigators can damage your case without knowing it. Contact our Chicago mail fraud lawyers at Law Offices of Vadim A. Glozman. We can help, so call (312) 726-9015.