Los Angeles Federal Mail Fraud Attorney
California doesn’t have a law that makes it a crime to use the mail to defraud another person. The federal government does, though, and a conviction carries incredibly harsh penalties – including decades in prison.
If you’ve been arrested on federal mail fraud charges in Los Angeles, do not hesitate to contact the Rodriguez Law Group for immediate assistance. Our Los Angeles mail fraud defense attorneys, led by a former prosecutor, can help you by strategizing a defense and putting that plan into action.
Do not underestimate just how seriously the federal government will take your criminal case. Give our criminal defense law firm a call today to arrange a free consultation. We can review your case, offer some preliminary legal advice, and answer any questions that you have.
What is Mail Fraud?
Mail fraud has been described as being the government’s best friend because the federal crime is so broad. It applies to a lot of different things. Many times, prosecutors rely on mail fraud charges when they’re unable to build a white collar case to support related criminal charges.
- Have a scheme or plan to defraud someone of money, property, or honest services; AND
- Use of the mail for the purpose of executing (or attempting to execute) that scheme.
In simple terms, mail fraud involves defrauding or attempting to defraud someone and using the U.S. Postal Service or another delivery service during the process.
It’s important to understand what each of these things means.
Scheme or Plan to Defraud
First, mail fraud requires that you have developed a plan to defraud someone. What exactly does it mean to commit fraud or defraud someone? There’s no hard-and-fast definition. It’s quite subjective.
Some courts have explained that fraud involves breaching a moral or legal duty that’s owed to another person, causing damages in the process. Others have explained that fraud is the same as cheating. One court defined fraud to mean “a scheme reasonably calculated to deceive persons of ordinary prudence and comprehension.”
It’s not enough to attempt to deceive another person; the conduct and intent must go beyond that.
Depriving Someone of Money, Property, or Honest Services
Mail fraud doesn’t just involve a scheme to defraud. That fraud must involve money, property, or honest services. The first two are pretty straightforward and have been part of the mail fraud statute from the start.
However, over the years, Congress expanded the statute to include acts designed “to deprive another of the intangible right of honest services.” Originally, this part of the mail fraud statute was implemented to target corruption at the state and local levels. However, it also includes private acts that deprive someone of honest services they’re entitled to.
Here’s an example. Let’s say Joe is an executive at a construction company based in Los Angeles. The company receives bids from subcontractors to work on the company’s various projects. Joe’s best friend, Steve, happens to own a plumbing company. Joe picks Steve’s company every time, despite the fact that the other companies submitted bids for substantially less money. Joe mails the contract for Steve to sign. Here, he has a scheme to defraud his employer of honest services and has used the mail to accomplish it.
Using the Postal Service or a Delivery Carrier
This is the “mail” part of mail fraud. It also tends to be the easiest for the government to prove. Basically, all the prosecutors have to prove is that your plan involves mailing something or using a delivery service that crosses state lines.
That’s it. You don’t actually have to mail anything or put things in motion. The mere fact that you plan to use the mail to commit fraud is sufficient. In some cases, prosecutors have been able to satisfy this element by just pointing the fact that a defendant uses the mail regularly.
What Are the Penalties for a Federal Mail Fraud Conviction?
If you have a plan to the United States Postal Service or another intrastate delivery courier (e.g., FedEx, UPS, DHL) to defraud another person of money, property, or honest services, you could face years behind bars at a federal penitentiary. That’s because federal mail fraud is always a felony offense.
As with all federal offenses, the penalty for a mail fraud conviction is determined using federal sentencing guidelines. Mail fraud, absent any aggravating factors, carries a maximum of 20 years in federal prison. However, if a mail fraud scheme involves a financial institution, the maximum term of imprisonment increases to 30 years.
The sentence will vary with every individual case and situation. What might influence the sentence in a mail fraud case? Things like:
- Whether or not you have a criminal record
- The number of people involved in your scheme to defraud
- What your specific role in the scheme was, if you didn’t act alone
- How many people were harmed by your scheme to defraud
- How much money was involved in your scheme, and
- How long have you been able to defraud others under the scheme.
The more direct your role, the more money involved, and the more people affected, the harsher the penalty will be. If you played a small, incidental role, you’ll probably spend a limited amount of time behind bars, especially if you have no priors.
In addition to a prison sentence, mail fraud can also carry substantial fines. You could be required to up anywhere between $250,000 and $1 million for each count, if convicted. Additionally, you might be sentenced to probation, which could include mandatory counseling, community service, house arrest, and even random drug testing. Finally, restitution is typically ordered in these cases, which means that you’ll have to pay back the money or property involved in the scheme.
Collateral Consequences of a Federal Mail Fraud Conviction
It’s important to note that a mail fraud conviction doesn’t just carry criminal consequences. You will also face social and civil penalties, as well. These are known as collateral consequences, and they can have far-reaching consequences for years to come.
Because of a federal mail fraud conviction, you might find that:
- You’re stripped of professional licenses and the ability to continue your career
- You no longer have the right to hold public office
- Employers aren’t eager to have a convicted felon working for them, and
- Lenders are wary of extending a line of credit or offering a loan.
A conviction can even have ramifications in your personal life. It could affect family law proceedings and interfere with your custodial and visitation rights if you have children. You may also find that your reputation takes a serious blow, which can lead to isolation and depression.
Defending Federal Mail Fraud Charges in Los Angeles
Remember, federal prosecutors in Los Angeles will have the burden of proving that you are guilty of mail fraud. They not only have to establish that you devised a scheme to defraud someone of money, property, or honest services, but that you also used or planned to use the mail to do it. Further, the government can’t convict if there’s a reasonable doubt that you’re not guilty.
The only way to protect yourself from the potential consequences of a federal mail fraud conviction is with an aggressive defense strategy. At the Rodriguez Law Group, our Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys have been navigating the complexities of federal cases for decades.
We know that your defense must not only involve efforts to prove that you aren’t guilty; it must also attempt to discredit the government’s case against you. Our criminal defense lawyers will work diligently to undermine the prosecution at every turn.
When you call us for help, we’ll carefully review the circumstances of your case and conduct a thorough investigation. This will help us determine which defense strategies might be most successful in your case. Defenses for mail fraud can include:
- You did not have the intent to defraud anyone
- No scheme or plan to defraud existed
- You had a scheme or plan to defraud, but at no point in time did you intend to use the mail or a delivery service
- Violations of your Constitutional rights, such as an unlawful arrest or illegal search and seizure.
Keeping evidence out of court can be just as valuable to your defense as any other strategy. Our Los Angeles federal mail fraud attorneys will analyze your interactions with federal agents and determine if your rights might have been violated. If we believe they were, we will ask the court to exclude evidence or, better yet, toss your case.
Schedule a Free Consultation With Our Los Angeles Federal Mail Fraud Attorneys
When you’re facing federal mail fraud charges in Los Angeles, CA, it’s important to enlist the help of a qualified criminal defense attorney. At the Rodriguez Law Group, our accomplished team not only has an in-depth understanding of federal law, but also has experience navigating the federal court system in California. That’s the kind of help you need when your future is on the line. Give our Los Angeles law office a call today to arrange a time to discuss your case in detail and learn more.