Mail fraud: a federal crime

Residents of Illinois can be charged in federal court if they commit mail fraud. The Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution grants the federal government authority to prosecute interstate mail fraud. This type of crime includes any scheme to obtain money or property under false pretenses or distributing, exchanging, supplying or using counterfeits.

The federal statute is interpreted broadly to include many illegal acts related to fraud. This includes mailing contracts related to a fraudulent scheme. An offender charged with mail fraud and another serious crime may be prosecuted for both felonies simultaneously. "Mail" is also interpreted broadly and can include commercial mail carriers other than the United States Postal Service.

Mail fraud is punishable by a fine and a sentence in federal prison of up to 20 years. Furthermore, mail fraud that involves a financial institution or a presidentially declared major disaster or emergency is punishable by a fine of up to $1 million and a prison sentence of up to 30 years.

A criminal defense attorney may be able to assist a person who has been accused of mail fraud. For example, legal counsel could negotiate with federal prosecutors to allow a defendant to plead to a lesser charge and avoid prison time. There are also various defenses available to a person accused of mail fraud. If the defendant had no intent to commit fraud, this would not meet the statutory elements for a mail fraud conviction. If the defendant made a representation of a future event rather than a past or present event, this would not meet the definition of false pretenses.

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