Nick Lotito & Seth Kirschenbaum

Former Federal Prosecutors

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Mail fraud: A crime with many possibilities

There are many crimes that can take place through the mail. One of the most common criminal charges is mail fraud. This is fraud that takes place using the U.S. Postal Service.

Mail fraud has a broad definition. It is when a person uses the U.S. Postal Service to obtain property or money under false pretenses. It is also when the mail service is used to exchange, supply, distribute or sell counterfeit items.

Does the fraudulent act have to take place through the mail service?

Interestingly, the fraudulent act itself does not need to take place through the mail. Any communications, receipts or contracts mailed through the mail regarding a fraudulent act can be used against you in court to bring a charge of mail fraud.

What are some important mail fraud schemes of the past?

A Ponzi scheme is one of the most common. It is when the money collected from one person is used to pay the previous party. As the scheme grows, it becomes impossible to pay everyone, which results in the scheme failing in the end. It's a form of a pyramid scheme, where only the first or second level of people involved make any money and everyone else loses theirs.

Bernard Madoff is another person who created the largest Ponzi scheme ever. He collected investment funds for securities he did not actually trade. When someone wanted to make a withdrawal, he would trick them into investing more or pay them out with the funds collected in the investment pool.

What happens if you're convicted of mail fraud?

The penalties vary significantly. You may face as little as up to 20 years in prison or, like Bernard Madoff, over 100 years. You also face a fine, which varies depending on how much others have been defrauded and how large the scheme is.

If you face penalties because of your role in a mail fraud scheme, your attorney can help. It's important to defend yourself to make sure you're treated fairly by the prosecution.

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Nick Lotito & Seth Kirschenbaum

Former Federal Prosecutors

918 Ponce de Leon Avenue, N.E. Atlanta, GA 30306 Phone: 404-692-5168 Fax: 404-872-1622 Atlanta Law Office Map