White-collar crime is non-violent and typically committed with the intention of financial gain.
Mail fraud is a broad term encompassing a few different types of white-collar crimes involving the U.S. postal service or another mail carrier.
The federal definition of mail fraud
The federal government defines mail fraud based on two elements:
- Devising or intending to devise a plan to perform a fraudulent act
- Using a mail carrier to commit the fraudulent act.
The type of fraud committed can vary.
Examples of mail fraud
Examples of crimes commonly involving mail fraud include:
- Bribery plans
- Kickback schemes
- Consumer fraud
- Illegal real estate arrangements
- Insurance fraud
- Election fraud
- Investment fraud, including stocks and securities
- Marketing schemes
- Charity scams
Not all fraud involves mail. For example, cold call scams in which the person attempts to get someone, typically an elderly person, to buy something with no intention of providing a return fall under fraud without the mail component.
Penalties for mail fraud
The potential penalties for mail fraud depend on the crime committed and the severity of it. The possibility of a sentence to years in federal prison is high for mail fraud. The fines can be as much as $1 million. When defrauding someone of personal property occurs, the court may require restitution as well. Lower-level crimes may result in probation, typically between one and three years.
The type of mail fraud committed, the victim in the case and the extent of damages all play a role in the penalties the defendant may face.