NYC Mail Fraud Attorneys
Mail fraud is a very serious federal offense. The facts surrounding the crime are usually very complicated, and you will want to work with New York fraud attorneys experienced in dealing with federal fraud and negotiating against hardened federal prosecutors. Generally, mail fraud involves a scheme where the defendant uses mail communication in an attempt to deprive another person of that person’s property. Mail fraud is one of the oldest crimes in the U.S.
Elements of Mail Fraud
Just because you have been accused of mail fraud, this does not mean you are guilty of a crime. Prosecutors bear the burden of proving guilt and generally will have to show beyond a reasonable doubt all of the elements of mail fraud.
The U.S. statutes generally define mail fraud to mean an individual who engages in a scheme or artifice intended to defraud someone of money or property through the use of the U.S. mail or other mail service. The fraud can occur by false pretenses, misrepresentations and fake promises regarding loans, exchanges, giveaways and other spurious acts. The typical elements of the crime include:
- Scheme or Artifice. To prove mail fraud, prosecutors will need to show that the defendant was engaged in a scheme or artifice to engage in the fraud. This means that the defendant hatched some plan to defraud another through use of the U.S. mail or private carrier. Prosecutors will need to show that the alleged mail fraud contained some form of misrepresentation, deception or lie.
- Material Misrepresentation. Similar to other fraud crimes, the misrepresentation made in the mail fraud scheme must be material. In other words, a misrepresentation or fraud regarding an insignificant detail may not be enough to support the mail fraud charge. Instead, the misrepresentation must concern a material fact that caused the victim to act and is of relative significance.
- Intent and Knowledge. To be considered fraud, the defendant typically needs to have the intent and knowledge of engaging in the fraudulent act. In other words, a simple mistake or reasonable error may not be enough to constitute fraud. Intent and knowledge may be the most difficult element that prosecutors have to prove as it can be hard to show someone’s intent. Your attorney can help explore ways to prove your lack of knowledge and thus your lack of culpability for the alleged actions.
- Use of Mail. The final element of mail fraud may sound obvious, but prosecutors will need to show that the fraud occurred through the use of the U.S. Postal Service or some private mail carrier. Without this element, the fraud may be considered wire fraud or some other type of fraud and the defendant may escape the especially harsh penalties associated with mail fraud.
Common Mail Fraud Schemes
There are many ways that an individual may engage in mail fraud. Basically, the types of fraud are only limited by the imagination of the alleged fraudster. Some common types of fraud that a New York fraud attorneys helps defend include the following:
- Financial Fraud. Many instances of mail fraud or phishing scams involve an individual trying to obtain personal private data from the victim. For example, the perpetrator may send a letter purportedly to be from a bank and request identifying information from the victim such as Social Security numbers or bank account information. The victim would provide such information under the false pretenses that he or she is responding to the bank.
- Fraud Against the Elderly. The elderly are especially susceptible to mail fraud. Some types of mail fraud that target the elderly can include fake promises of inheritances and other windfalls, false health insurance solicitations and outreach from relatives supposedly in need of financial aid.
- Sweepstakes Fraud. If something sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Sweepstakes fraud involves false promises or misrepresentations that the victim has won some large amount in a game. Typically, to obtain the sum, the victim will need to provide sensitive personal information.
- Charity Fraud. During times of disaster, many well-meaning individuals may be looking to donate money to charity. A common fraud is for someone to set up fake charities and to solicit donations through the use of mail. This type of fraud can lead to enhanced penalties, especially if occurring during a federally declared emergency.
Penalties for Mail Fraud
The penalties for mail fraud are very severe and can include both prison time and significant monetary penalties. If you are convicted of the crime, you generally can face up to a 20-year prison sentence. However, if there are extenuating circumstances, the penalties you face could increase. For example, mail fraud that occurs in connection with a Presidential declared major emergency or disaster may result in a 30-year prison sentence and possible million-dollar fine.
If you are unsure about the potential penalties you face, you will want to speak with an experienced attorney immediately. Contrary to public opinion, you should be aware that the penalties for mail fraud can be as serious as the penalties for other more-publicized crimes like assault and battery or rape. An attorney can help review your rights and give you a better understanding of what you are up against.
Contact New York Fraud Attorneys
If you have been charged with mail fraud, you will want to contact experienced counsel immediately. The penalties for mail fraud can be very severe and New York fraud lawyers can help you establish your defenses and weigh your options. To discuss the specific facts of your case with an attorney, contact Frederick L. Sosinsky by calling (212) 285-2270. Don’t fight your fight alone!