Federal Mail Fraud Defense
Under federal law, the simple act of mailing a letter can be a serious crime. The crime is called mail fraud, and the penalty can be up to 30 years in prison.
Mail fraud is a good example of how federal crimes and federal courts are different than California courts. Mail fraud is almost always a federal crime. It has been since 1872. In all of that time, there have been many thousands of prosecutions, and whether someone is guilty of mail fraud depends on very specific factors. Most criminal defense lawyers aren’t familiar with federal law. That is why it is critical that anyone who is under investigation for or has been charged with mail fraud work with a lawyer who is experienced in defending cases in federal court. The Law Offices of Jerod Gunsberg will aggressively defend any mail fraud charge based on our extensive experience in the Federal courts in Los Angeles, Orange County, and Riverside.
What is Mail Fraud?
Under 18 U.S.C. Section 1341 it is a crime for anyone to use the mail system as part of a scheme or plan to defraud someone else.
To convict someone of mail fraud, federal prosecutors must prove three element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt:
- A plan or scheme to defraud or to obtain money, personal or real property by fraud
- A mail communication, either through the United States Postal Service or a private service such as Federal Express
- An intent to commit fraud
The most common situation is when someone sends a letter that contains lies as part of a scheme to sell something such as real estate. Mailing the letter might seem to be a minor act, but under the mail fraud law, it carries a maximum penalty of up to 30 years in prison.
Mail Fraud and Conspiracy Cases
Mail fraud comes up in a wide variety of federal prosecutions, including the many cases in which it is alleged that someone was involved in a drug or other conspiracy. Mail fraud charges also arise in connection with financial crimes such as mortgage fraud, bank fraud, tax fraud, and Medicare fraud. People who are accused of those crimes often are also charged with mail fraud.
Defending Mail Fraud Cases
The most effective way to defend mail fraud cases is to challenge the evidence that prosecutors rely on to establish every element of the crime. There are numerous defenses to mail fraud, including that there is insufficient evidence to establish that the person accused had an intent to commit a fraud. Just because an investment lost money or a real estate scheme was risky does not mean that there was an intent to defraud. Likewise, in order to constitute fraud, the statement or mailing must be material. It is not sufficient for the prosecutor to show that there was an untrue statement. Moreover, the item that was mailed must be connected to the fraudulent scheme or plan. The United States Supreme Court has established that, if the mailing took place after the alleged fraud was complete, that mailing cannot be the basis a mail fraud conviction.
These are just examples of some of the factual details that are relevant to an effective defense of a mail fraud charge. They also demonstrate why it is a mistake to talk to the FBI or any other federal agent without first talking to an experienced criminal defense attorney. Even if you are told that you are “only a witness,” don’t talk to federal agents by yourself.
Why an Experienced Federal Mail Fraud Defense Lawyer Can Help
Given how extreme the potential punishments are under federal law for mail fraud, it is critical that you work with an experienced federal mail fraud defense lawyer who has local expertise in federal courts. Whether your situation involves the FBI or any other federal agency, or whether you may only be a “witness” in a mail fraud case, or whether you have been accused of being more actively involved in a federal mail fraud conspiracy, the Law Offices of Jerod Gunsberg will aggressively defend any mail fraud-related charge based on our extensive experience in the Federal courts in Los Angeles, Orange County, and Riverside.
For a free and confidential consultation, call Los Angeles criminal defense attorney Jerod Gunsberg at (323) 633-3423 or get in touch via the secure contact form on this page. Help is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.