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Elements of mail fraud

On Behalf of | Feb 19, 2021 | Blog, White Collar Crime

A New York resident who uses the United States Postal Service or other interstate mail carriers to facilitate a crime involving deceit or fraud could face federal mail fraud charges. These charges can result in unwanted legal consequences and often happen in conjunction with other crimes like identity theft, money laundering or immigration fraud.

Mail fraud defined

Mail fraud, like other white-collar criminal offenses, includes either a dishonest scheme to take possession of another person’s property or exchanging counterfeit objects. Mail fraud charges become relevant whenever mail plays a role in deceptive activity. Many examples of mail fraud include the use of the USPS, but the federal government also possesses jurisdiction in cases involving commercial and private carriers when the mailings are from one state to another.


Individuals convicted of mail fraud can spend as many as 20 years in federal prison. Convicted mail fraudsters may also have to pay a fine of up $1 million. A court can order the defendant to forfeit assets gained through mail fraud and pay restitution to victims.

The factors that contribute to the severity of a sentence for mail fraud include the amount of money involved in the case, the number of victims targeted by the perpetrator and whether the defendant misrepresented themselves as part of an official organization.

Famous mail fraud case

Charles Ponzi enjoys the dubious position of being one of the most famous fraudsters in history. Ponzi ran a scheme in 1919 that worked through the use of postal reply coupons. At one point, the scam netted Ponzi $1 million a day. The success for Ponzi did not last long, however, and he faced 86 mail fraud indictments. Ponzi pleaded out to a single count of mail fraud and received a five-year prison sentence. The term “Ponzi Scheme” now describes schemes that involve taking money from new scam victims to make payments to older ones.

Individuals accused of mail fraud face significant legal consequences. A criminal defense attorney may be able to help the defendant protect their liberty and finances.

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