Mail fraud charges are used most frequently in federal white collar crime cases to either make an initial charge or add a charge to a list of existing ones. Mail fraud charges include to premises to uphold in court, including the intent to commit fraud and the use of the United States Postal System in the process. This system includes both private and public postal delivery systems.
The federal legislation that governs criminal charges against mail fraud is United States statute 18 U.S.C. 1341 (1994). This statute awards criminal charges that include up to twenty years in federal prison, and a fine up to one million dollars. In addition, if mail fraud is committed against a financial entity like a bank, investment firm, or hedge fund, then the mail fraud charges include up to thirty years in federal prison and up to one million dollars.
Mail fraud charges are awarded for each time the mail is used. This means that if a schemer uses the mail to send off three different schemes, he is charged with the criminal charges three times over. Consistent occurrences of mail fraud may require further investigation by the authorities, but are significant to the amount of mail fraud charges given.
However, the government reserves the right to charge different occurrences as many times as they like. For instance, a criminal who committed mail fraud for a period of time, through a significant amount of mailings, the criminal charges can be assigned for a single count. In these instances a government may increase the criminal charges to the fullest extent of the statute.
To prove that fraud exists in a case, the government must prove that a knowledgeable intent existed. If an individual wanted to participate in a scheme, without a specific intent to defraud through postage, mail fraud charges can not apply. In some cases the intent to defraud exists bluntly and can be proven easily. In other cases it is not so easy to prove, since committing fraud does not always constitute mail fraud.
Mail fraud can be charged as a state offense if the mail never crossed over from state to state. In this instance, criminal charges will be issued according to state laws and statutes. When mail fraud crosses between states it is then considered a federal issue. Mail fraud charges would then be issued according to the federal statute 18 U.S.C. 1341 (1994).