Mail fraud remains one of the most common types of white collar crimes that individuals end up charged and convicted of. It may surprise you to know that mail fraud is more than just a petty crime or misdemeanor. In fact, no matter the extent of the fraud, the law classifies the crime as a felony.
Accordingly, if convicted of mail fraud, you face the potential of steep penalties. But just what are these penalties, and how can they affect your future?
What is mail fraud?
The Congressional Research Service examines everything you need to know about mail fraud. First, mail fraud occurs any time you use the U.S. postal system to further a fraud plan. In this case, fraud plans involve any attempt at unlawfully separating a person from their assets, money or right to honest services.
The use of the postal system is why the law considers mail fraud a felony. After all, the postal system is a government system. In other words, you use government property when attempting to further a crime. Note that this covers any use of the postal system, whether you use the United States Postal Service directly or not. It also includes any form of package or letter sent by mail. This can include everything from postcards to boxes.
Penalties for mail fraud
If convicted, you face up to 20 years in prison. If you targeted a financial institution, you face up to 30 years. You also get a higher sentence if the fraud utilized a natural disaster. Beyond jail time, you face a fine of up to $250,000 for individuals. For organizations, it rises to $500,000. For financial institutes or natural disasters, it skyrockets to $1 million.
You may also face probation, a forfeiture order or a term of supervised release. Due to the variety of penalties, it is important to take charges seriously from the start.