A New Jersey federal criminal defense lawyer takes a close look at what constitutes federal mail fraud and what to do if you have been accused of this crime.
The Federal Mail Fraud Statute
Under Federal Statute 18 U.S.C. 1341 – Frauds And Swindles, federal mail fraud occurs essentially when an individual tries to cheat or cause another individual to cheat someone by means of the U.S. Postal Service or any other carrier that delivers mail or packages across state lines. The law has broad applications and could at some point be exercised against practically anyone. After all, we all use the mail.
The Question Of Intent
Under federal law, however, you cannot commit mail fraud inadvertently. For federal charges to be brought against you, the prosecution must have reason to believe that you knew what you were doing and meant to cheat someone of money or other valuables. Then they have to prove it. It is this question of intent that you and your New Jersey federal criminal defense attorney must address in your defense.
Deception Is Not Enough
The object of mail fraud generally is to induce the victim to turn over money while receiving nothing in return by means of trickery. Illusory or less-than-reliable claims of products or services offered are not sufficient grounds for mail fraud if the services or products are legal and forthcoming. A sales letter with something resembling a check inside promising you a rebate on a product is not mail fraud if a disclaimer states that it is not a check and the rebate is real. There is a difference between such a sales letter and a material representation. A material representation is designed to trigger an action on the part of the recipient based on false information in order to get something for nothing. The victim would never normally have taken such an action had the false information not led him or her to it. The information in the letter may be factually true, but if the letter were part of a larger scheme to cheat the recipient it is still considered mail fraud. Even if the scheme fails, the attempt to defraud can be grounds for charges to be brought.
The Potential Penalties are Severe
Mail fraud is serious and can carry severe penalties upon conviction. The potential penalties include such consequences as years in prison, extremely high fines, forfeiture of assets, and restitution.
If You Are Charged
If you or a loved one are charged with or under investigation for federal mail fraud, you should immediately call a New Jersey federal criminal defense attorney experienced in federal mail fraud cases. You can contact Tim Anderson at (732) 212-2812 to discuss such a case.