If a person sells a counterfeit good or obtains property or money under false pretenses, those acts are referred to as fraud. If a person uses the mail system to commit those acts, he or she will likely be charged with mail fraud. It doesn’t matter whether a message was sent through the United States Postal Service or through another carrier. Sending evidence of fraud to another party by mail could also be considered mail fraud.
Individuals such as Charles Ponzi and Bernie Madoff have been convicted of mail fraud. Ponzi was ultimately convicted in 1920 of one count and was sentenced to five years in prison. Madoff was sentenced to 150 years in prison after obtaining $65 billion illegally from individuals throughout the country. The penalty for mail fraud is 20 years in prison in addition to a fine.
However, in certain situations, an individual could be fined up to $1 million and spend up to 30 years in prison if convicted of mail fraud. This is true if the fraud was related to a disaster declared by the president. Enhanced penalties could also be applied if fraud harmed a bank, credit union or any other type of financial institution. It is also possible that an individual’s assets will be repossessed and liquidated in an effort to compensate victims.
Those who are charged with crimes such as tax evasion or credit card fraud may be sentenced to many years in prison. Individuals may also experience strained personal and professional relationships after being charged with a crime. Therefore, it may be worthwhile to consult with a criminal defense attorney. An attorney may take steps to help a person obtain an acquittal or get a case dismissed such as casting doubt on evidence like witness testimony.