Mail fraud is the attempt to commit some type of fraud (deceit, concealment, or trickery) by using the United States Postal Service (USPS) or any private or commercial interstate mail carrier, such as Mailboxes, Etc. Mail fraud may be committed against and by both businesses and individuals.
Mail Fraud Convictions
To be convicted of mail fraud, one must do all of the following:
- Purposefully create a plan to defraud an individual or institution
- Display intent to commit fraud
- Mail something—for the purpose of carrying out a fraudulent scheme—through the USPS or a private carrier
Previous Mail Fraud Cases
According to the USPS, prosecutors proved in 2002 that a Texas man sold roughly $6.5 million in fraudulent certificates of deposit (CDs) via the U.S. Mail to close to 80 investors - most of whom were senior citizens. The man, who never purchased the CDs, used portions of the money to pay earlier investors and used the rest for personal expenses. More than 45 investors are still owed a total of $3.5 million.
The USPS states that two employees of the company that publishes Business Week were charged with conspiracy to commit securities fraud when they revealed confidential information about publicly held companies. The pair allegedly stockpiled thousands of dollars in kickbacks (through the U.S. Mail) after giving two co-defendants insider trading information from an issue of Business Week the day before the issue hit newsstands. Armed with their tips, the co-defendants bought various company stocks on a reported 43 occasions and sold it when the magazine was released—after which stock prices soared. The trades were valued at more than $2 million, while profits totaled $450,000.
An Arizona man was convicted of mail fraud and sentenced to five years of supervised probation, nine months of home detention, and $1 million in victim restitution after executing the age-old envelope-stuffing scam. The man ran ads in national magazines, promising to send stuffing materials to everyone who mailed money for supply costs ($18 to $36) to his fictitious company. He mailed instructions on how to run an envelope-stuffing business but no actual materials.
Possible Punishments for Mail Fraud Crimes
Mail fraud, a felony, carries a sentence of up to five years in prison and/or fines of up to $250,000 when individuals are involved and up to 30 years in prison and/or $1,000,000 in fines when a financial institution is involved.