Los Angeles Mail Fraud Defense Attorneys
The United States Postal Service (USPS) is one of our oldest governmental institutions. Each day, more than 180 million pieces of mail are sent all across the country. With such widespread use, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the U.S. government has implemented strict laws about using the USPS and their resources for criminal activities.
Originally, mail fraud only applied to criminal acts that specifically used U.S. mail to commit fraud, such as counterfeiting and other crimes that involved currency. Today, however, Congress has vastly expanded the definition of mail fraud to cover criminal activities that use any sort of interstate delivery service, such as UPS and FedEx, as well as certain crimes that are now categorized as “theft of honest services.” Honest services is a term used by prosecutors in a variety of cases, including public corruption, private fiduciary relationships, and others.
Receiving a charge for mail fraud can be complicated, frustrating, and intimidating if you don’t have a genuine understanding of the laws behind it. If you have been charged with mail fraud, it’s important that you act immediately. The team at Werksman Jackson & Quinn, LLP, has the necessary experience to represent your case in federal court. Contact us online or by calling (213) 688-0460.
According to 18 U.S. Code § 1341, mail fraud is defined as the use of the United States Postal Service or a private delivery service while committing a crime. The only thing that the prosecution needs to prove in cases that involve mail fraud is whether the defendant had an intention to defraud another party and that the plan involved using a mail service. Committing fraud in this manner constitutes a wide range of acts, including Ponzi schemes, identity theft, and sending out fake government documents.
Mail fraud can also be relevant in cases that involve a deliberate omission of facts done through the mail. For example, a business owner may commit mail fraud when they communicate through the mail to potential investors and intentionally misleading them by claiming some prominent individual has expressed interest in their business (making investing in the business seem more attractive), when in reality the prominent individual never really expressed interest at all.
This may surprise you, but your mailbox does not actually legally belong to you. All mailboxes in America belong to the United States Postal Service. Which means tampering with a mailbox is actually a federal offense. While dropping a letter off at your neighbor’s mailbox may seem harmless, it could be considered a crime. That is why it is so important to know exactly what is considered mail tampering because the term mail tampering can apply to several different crimes.
Putting items into mailboxes: You may be tempted to drop a “Get Well Soon” card off at a sick friend’s mailbox to remind them that you’re thinking of them as they get over the flu. But that is actually breaking the law. Only authorized USPS letter carriers may place mail into a residential mailbox. Mailboxes are also for official mail with proper postage, so the local girl scout troop can’t go around placing flyers in everyone’s mailboxes.
Breaking this law could result in a $5,000 fine.
Taking items from mailboxes: Stealing from a mailbox, as well as taking mail or packages that are still in the process of being delivered, is a serious crime, and would be prosecuted on the federal level. It’s a crime even if you take out a letter and then immediately return it. The only people allowed to take mail from a mailbox are the people who live at the mailboxes address. If you have clear permission from the property owner to take their mail, like if you are house sitting for several weeks, or if you are sorting through a deceased person’s letters while finishing up their affairs, then it is legal to take mail from someone else’s mailbox.
Stealing from a mailbox is a federal offense and could result in up to three years in federal prison for each willful act as well as a fine of $250,000.
Vandalizing a mailbox: As already stated, mailboxes are actually owned by the United States Postal Office. This means that when a mailbox is vandalized, the offense is against USPS, rather than the property owner. Within the context of mail tampering, vandalism means destruction or damage done to the mailbox, or by placing something within the mailbox that is meant to cause damage to it or destroy the mail inside.
Being found guilty of mailbox vandalism can lead to three years in prison for every willful acts, as well as a fine of $250,000.
While many of the well-known forms of mail fraud involve cheating individuals out of money through the mail service, there are other kinds of mail fraud that have more far-reaching applications. “Honest services fraud” is a complicated charge that falls under the umbrella of mail fraud, even though it doesn’t necessarily always involve the use of mail to commit crimes. Traditionally, mail fraud only included cases in which victims were defrauded of tangible property, such as money. That changed in 1987, when the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that it should also extend to cases in which the victim’s intangible rights, e.g. their right to “honest services,” were taken from them. Commonly, honest services fraud cases deal with individuals who abuse positions of authority by committing bribery and other acts of public corruption. The reasoning for this is that by accepting a bribe, the public official is unable to protect the citizens’ right to “honest services.”
If you’ve been charged with mail fraud, you can quickly find yourself in over your head with the complexities of the law. You deserve to have a team on your side that understands how to work with the federal courts and provide you with a robust, aggressive, and effective criminal defense so you can properly fight these charges.
Regardless of the circumstances of your case, you need an experienced Los Angeles federal crime attorney on your side. At Werksman Jackson & Quinn, LLP, you’ll receive top criminal defense and get to work with a dedicated team. Get started by contacting our office at (213) 688-0460.
Recent Case Results
- Complete Dismissal of Molestation Charges
Attorney Mark Werksman’s 29 year old client was falsely accused of molesting two neighborhood children and was subsequently charged with felony child molestation, with a significant prison sentence hanging over his head should he be convicted. Instead, at the preliminary hearing Werksman was able to convince the court to grant his client a complete dismissal of any charges.
- Decision Set Aside
Client, a college student in a faulty Title IX case, was awarded $130,000 in attorney fees.
- Probation with No Jail Time for Drug Money Laundering Charge
Wilmington man accused in New York federal court of laundering drug money through the sale of laptop computers. Mark was able to get the case transferred to federal court in Los Angeles, where he convinced the United States Attorney to reduce the charges. His client was sentenced to probation with no jail time on a misdemeanor conviction.