What is mail fraud?

If you were accused of “mail fraud,” you might not consider it to be a serious offense. It just doesn’t sound very bad in terms of the various types of criminal charges one could be accused of. However, this common criminal charge could have serious criminal consequences — especially because of the way it can serve to elevate any other criminal act connected with the mail fraud to the level of a federal crime.

Mail fraud usually employs the use of the U.S. Postal Service in a criminal way. A mail fraud charge is one of the easiest ways for the federal government to claim it has jurisdiction over your criminal court proceedings.

In the broadest sense of the term, mail fraud involves any scheme that uses the U.S. Postal Service to:

  • Obtain money under false pretenses; or
  • Distribute, sell supply, exchange or use counterfeits.

For example, individuals might mail fraudulent contracts or receipts through the U.S. Postal Service which elevates what would normally be considered a state-level offense into the federal court system. Mail fraud could also be an issue in cases where individuals mail marijuana from a state where it is legal to a state like North Carolina where it is illegal.

Mail fraud is a serious offense because of the potential for stiff punishments — high fines and up 20 years in prison in many cases. If you’ve been accused of mail fraud in connection with other crimes, make sure you understand the facts being used to assert the charge. Also, make sure you understand the ramifications of your criminal being handled by the federal court system as it could change the way you need to defend yourself in court.