When it comes to white collar crime, mail fraud is probably the most common offense committed in the United States. Most likely the reason for the prevalence of this type of crime is that it encompasses just about any illegal activity that could be done through the postal service. According to Title 18 of the United States Code, Section 1341, whenever someone uses the mail system in any form with the intent to commit fraud, they are engaging in mail fraud.
Proving mail fraud almost always hinges on the intent of the accused and evidence of that is usually circumstantial. There is a definite distinction between an intent to deceive and intent to defraud. A perfect example of this is when a direct marketing a business presents their product in a way that appears to be very different from its true nature; clearly an attempt to deceive is indicated but not to defraud. For a defendant to be found guilty of fraudulent intent, it must be proven that there was intent to cause harm or injury to the plaintiff. Its basis is the intention to cheat others by causing financial loss or to bring financial gain to themselves.
Illinois Laws And Penalties
Both the federal government and the state have laws to criminalize mail fraud. It mainly applies to any attempt to defraud another individual through the use of the United States Postal Service or another interstate mail carrier. Sending a letter to a victim in an attempt to defraud can be considered mail fraud and the penalties are determined by a number of different prevailing factors.
Illinois Mail Fraud Penalties
Penalties for mail fraud can be quite severe. However, the actual penalty that may be imposed will vary based on the different circumstances surrounding each unique case. Suffice it to say, that any mail fraud conviction has the potential of incurring high fines, long prison sentences, and other penalties. Because the crime is committed using the US Postal service, the Federal government issues prosecution and penalties. A defendant could easily end up incarcerated, fined, put on probation, or be forced to pay restitution to their victims.
- Incarceration: Each offense of federal mail fraud can bring with it the possibility of up to 20 years in prison with even harsher sentences if certain types of people or organizations are victimized. For example, the penalty for defrauding a financial institution or a victim of disaster relief could land you a 30 year sentence for each individual count.
- Fines: The defendant could also be subjected to extremely high fines as well. A single count of mail fraud could cost as much as $250,000.00. Again, certain victims however will warrant a much higher penalty where the amount could reach as high us as $1 million for each offense.
- Probation: Sometimes a defendant can get probation in lieu of prison time; however, there are some very specific regulations that must be adhered to. Anyone who is sentenced to probation will be expected to spend a specified period of time following imposed court conditions. This time period can vary in length but usually it is 1 or more years. The conditions imposed will severely curtail a person’s liberties. They may be required to regularly report to a probation officer, submit to random home searches, drug tests, and just by associating with a known criminal, could end up with their probation revoked.
- Restitution: When the fraudster has been successful in their attempts to steal property or money from a victim, courts can demand that restitution be made. Regular payments can be made to the victims in order to help them to recover their losses. Restitution payments are not the same as fines, which are to be paid to the court. In most cases, restitution must be paid in addition to the court fines imposed.
Statute Of Limitations on Illinois
For the majority of cases of mail fraud the statute of limitations is 5 years, however for cases that affect financial institutions the statute is extended to 10 years.
Key Illinois Mail Fraud Cases
- A former Troutman aide is convicted of mail fraud and lying to the FBI – A federal jury convicted the one-time aid of mail fraud and making false statements to the FBI. He now faces up to 6 and a half years in prison.
- An Elmhurst man was charged with defrauding the Postal Service – out of more than $3 million by tampering with postal meters at his mail-processing firm.
- A consultant pleads guilty to mail by falsifying college aid applications – He had plead guilty to making false representations on several documents for college financial aid.
- Two real estate attorneys were each charged with one count of mail fraud – and four counts of wire fraud in relation to mortgage fraud schemes.