Mail fraud is one of the most common federal offenses to date. Scams, schemes, and other fraudulent activities can be widespread. This particular version of fraud utilizes the US Postal Service to aid in the commission of the act. They can include but are not limited to brochures, sweepstakes scams, insurance, inheritance and any other paper distributions attempting to collect funds. The documents can be sent via paper, and electronic schemes to be considered mail fraud.
In order to be prosecuted for mail fraud, the following conditions must be met:
- There must be a scheme in place that will result in a loss
- The US Postal service is used to further or commence the fraud
When mailing any falsified or altered document through the US Postal Service, you can be found guilty for commission of mail fraud. This charge can be done in conjunction with other charges involving the scheme. It is important to understand that any involvement of the postal service can constitute mail fraud. This charge is not just limited to the government postal service, but also includes the private sector delivery companies as well.
One famous example of mail fraud involved Charles Ponzi. In fact, he was so good at his scam that they named the pyramid scam after him as a Ponzi scheme. His scheme involved selling postal stamps. He would use the funds he received to pay off previous investors, pocketing more money as he went. In working his way up the pyramid, he managed to steal millions of dollars. He was tried for 86 counts of mail fraud in 1920. He was able to remarkably plead guilty to 1 count of mail fraud and was sentenced to 5 years in prison. His successors were punished much more severely after his scheme had spread. The current federal penalties for mail fraud can be up to 20 years in prison and $250,000 in fines. Restitution, or payment to the victims, can also be court ordered.
If you are involved in a case of mail fraud or worry you have been a victim of, then it is critical to contact an attorney. By having an experienced provider on your side, they can help you to ensure that you are able to receive maximum compensation for the mail fraud and other associated charges. In defense to a mail fraud charge, there has to be an intent proven, and of course the means of delivery.
Wire Fraud involves schemes of fraud that use “wires” such as telephone or cellular phone that cross over state or country boundaries. These can be done via phone calls and computers. These are very commonly done through phishing scams or telemarketing. The caller will ask for personal information such as social security numbers, bank information or personal data. The information can then be used to use that person’s identity, gain access to their funds, or even be sold.
In order to be convicted of wire fraud, the prosecution has key elements that they must prove. These include:
- There was a scheme to intentionally commit fraud
- Interstate wire communication was used in the process of the fraud
When being charged with wire fraud, the prosecution will use each attempt, phone call, email, etc as a separate offense as wire fraud. The initial information of the wire fraud is collected by law enforcement, and in most cases the FBI furthers the investigation and handles the prosecution. Wire fraud is a federal offense that opens the door for prosecution to add additional charges or assure a victorious case with the wire fraud charge when other charges do not have sufficient evidence.
An example of wire fraud involves the following scenario. You receive an email from an old acquaintance. They are asking for money for a fundraiser involving selling flowers to pay for school supplies. Seeing this as a great cause, you purchase some of the flowers to support the school. After a week, the flowers do not arrive and you reply to the email. The message is unsuccessful. After reaching out to the friend through social media, the friend has no idea what you’re talking about. This is wire fraud. You sent money electronically to an individual who used a contact from your email (which could be obtained via hacking, using a common name, or even making a fictitious character). In this case, it would be important to contact your bank and ensure that your personal information is safe.
Contacting an attorney allows for you to have access and knowledge of the charges that can be faced along with wire fraud. Often, there are charges in addition to the wire fraud that must be considered. A defense would need to be assembled, such as lack of intention, and careful consideration given to your particular instance. If you were the perpetrator to the fraud, an attorney would benefit to negotiate on your behalf in regards to all of the charges total. The possible penalties for wire fraud alone can include up to 20 years in prison and fines up to $250,000 for an individual.
What is the difference between bank fraud and bank robbery? Not a lot.
A bank robbery is the stealing of funds from a financial institution through force. A bank fraud can be committed in a few various ways that involve stealing or impersonating a bank and secretly obtaining the funds. This can be accomplished via checks, stealing funds, posing as a bank, issuing bad checks, cashing forged checks and forgery itself. The funds are obtained in an illegal matter and the individual tries to accomplish the theft without getting caught.
There are various forms of committing bank fraud. A few examples of bank fraud are as follows. An individual can impersonate a bank and try to have patrons make deposits of funds. A check could be stolen from the bank or an individual and an account opened in that person’s name. Forgery and counterfeit checks are another common form of bank fraud.
In order for the prosecution to prove bank fraud, there are two key elements that must be met:
- A fraud plan in place with intention
- Receiving of funds involving false documentation or false pretenses
The punishments for bank fraud vary by state. The federal standard is for a fine up to a million dollars and 30 years in prison. The fines and punishments can be more severe depending on the accompanying charges, such as larceny or money laundering, and can cause for sentence enhancements.
If you are facing charges for bank fraud and other charges, it is critical to contact an attorney as soon as possible. Through legal representation, a defense to your particular circumstances. This article is not meant to supplement legal advice and an attorney should be contacted to discuss your case.
A telemarketing fraud occurs when information is exchanged over the phone for fraudulent purposes. These are commonly done as pyramid schemes, phone sweepstakes, charities and giveaways. The caller will often ask for ‘verification’ in which they will take down the information and use it to make purchases, open accounts and identity theft.
A common example of these schemes is the “Nigerian Prince”. A man will send an email or a phone call asking for help. He states he needs an account to safely deposit his funds into or account information to buy a ticket. In return for helping him, he promises large sums of funds and returns on the investment. Instead, the information is used for fraudulent purposes and sold.
A telemarketing scheme involves:
- An intent to defraud
- The use of a phone or other electronic system.
Complaints on illegitimate phone calls are made to the FTC, Federal Trade Commission. They possess a list for “Do Not Call” in which you can provide your number and cannot be contacted by any legitimate agencies. Thus when you receive a call, it can be safely assumed to be a fraud. The FTC handles the investigation and prosecution of those accused of telemarketing fraud. The cases merely need to show an intention to commit the fraud and the medium used is a phone system.
An example of a telemarketing fraud is as follows. You receive a call from a travel agency stating that you have won the grand prize! You are going to a tropical island to vacation for 7 days. All you need to do to confirm the reservation is pay the postage for the tickets to be mailed to you. You can pay with checking account or debit card to secure your spot. You have to hurry though, the offer isn’t going to last and they’ll be forced to give the prize to second place. This example holds many of the classic hallmarks of a telemarketing fraud. You have a company calling about a sweepstakes you didn’t enter, asking for your bank information to pay for ticket shipping, and being forced to rush so that you don’t have time to think or look into the legitimacy of the situation.
Prosecution of these claims can be difficult, as the source must be traced. Sometimes the scams even occur from overseas. If you are facing charges for this, you are likely being charged with other forms of fraud as well. It is important to gain legal representation to show your intentions so that you are not sentenced. The sentencing for the telemarketing fraud can include hefty fines and even prison time. A lawyer should be contacted immediately.
Who wouldn’t want to get a phone call saying you’ve won a million dollars? You just provide your information and/or pay some shipping cost and the grand prize is yours. These scams happen daily and affect many Americans. The information is used for purposes of fraud, identity theft, and to access their funds. These scams involve winning a “grand prize” via phone, email, mail and call for the participant to give their personal information in order to claim their prize.
Lottery fraud is charged via mail fraud, wire fraud, larceny, identity theft, and even bank fraud. The fraud charges depend on the method in which the information is gathered, the amount of funds used, and if the stolen information was used for other purposes, such as opening fake accounts. Often times, the information is sent overseas as seen with the Nigerian Prince scam or a Jamaican cruise scam. These are two of the most common scheme scenarios seen.
If you have committed lottery fraud, you are likely facing charges for fraud of some kind. The charges vary depending on the medium used, the amount of funds, and if other charges are present. There can be fines and prison time sentenced for those that are convicted. It is critical to speak with an attorney if you are facing charges involving a lottery fraud as the fines can go up to a million dollars and you could even face 20 years of prison time if convicted.
Fraud in Schools
Even education establishments can have cases of fraud present. We all want what is best for our children, but to what extent are parents and educators willing to go? There are various forms of fraud that occur within school systems. The schemes can be concocted by the educators in the form of falsifying time records, “ghost employees and students”, grades, allocation and embezzlement of funds. On the other end of the spectrum, parents have been found to lie about living situation for school district placement and income levels to obtain free lunches.
In the education system, there have been established cases of fraud. In recent years, investigations have shown where certain individuals will lie and even steal money from public education. In some situations, there are reported “ghost” employees, who are fictitious characters at a larger education system. The checks are sent into an account of someone who does not work for the school. This is the same principle for “ghost” students. They are used to boost the number of children in schools and altered attendance records so that the school can receive additional funding.
In the case of parents, many individuals want for their children to go to particular schools. Via lying about their place of residence, a parent could manipulate which school their child attends. This can be done for many things such as lower class ratios, better school system or personal preferences. This manipulation however affects the children that were intended to go that school over the ones that are incorrectly placed. This can place stress on that school system.
The charges that are associated with these fraud can include but are not limited to: forgery, filing with a false instrument, fraud and embezzlement. All of these charges should be taken seriously whether you are the parent or the teacher. A lawyer should be contacted to discuss the individual details of your case.
Art Fraud and Art Gallery Fraud
In the artistic craft, fraud often occurs so that other individuals can profit from the original artists. Art fraud, also known as forgery, occurs when a piece of work is misinterpreted. This can be done via misdating the piece, changing details about it such as origin, and who the creator was. In these crimes, it can be very hard to detect when a forgery has occurred, and even when it does some will not admit to it. As with a case involving Boymans-van Bueinger museum and a painting, even after discovering it to be a forgery the gallery did not admit to the mistake until it was confronted on record by the forger. In admitting this, there is a sense of embarrassment and shame that comes along with promoting a false piece of art.
The charges commonly associated with art fraud are forgery, embezzlement, counterfeit goods, money laundering and fraud. Art fraud is often involved with other criminal activity and can lead to other charges as well. There can be criminal charges along with civil suits with these charges. It is important to note that each situation is individual and needs to be reviewed thoroughly.
You place yourself at risk for art fraud when you misrepresent a piece. This can be done via the creator, time period, or other historical facts. When attempting to sell a piece of art, it is important to state the correct facts and provide certificates of authenticity. Possession of a forged art piece is not enough alone to convict.
However, the sales and trafficking of these fall under the category of dealings with counterfeit goods. With any situation, a lawyer should be contacted to review your case and determine your needs. This can help to anticipate the charges that are being faced and possible penalties.
Concert Ticket Schemes
Concerts, sports events, and other entertainment venues allow for online purchase of tickets. This however has led to much unrest in the market. When buying from vendors, there are often processing fees associated. In attempts to avoid these many turn to secondary sources for their online tickets. This opens the individual up for cases of fraud.
The ticket scams that occur are mainly focused around payments sent but no tickets received. Though not illegal, there is also the selling of unwanted tickets on other sites for higher costs. These scams make it difficult to know who to trust to buy tickets from.
In these cases, the seller can be charged for fraud. Depending on the avenue used there is mail fraud, wire fraud, bank fraud, and larceny. These can be tried in conjunction or separately. If you are being faced with any of these charges due to selling your tickets, it is important to grasp your situation at hand. You are likely facing charges for wire/mail fraud. These charges can result in severe punishments and fines. It is important to discuss your individual case with an attorney to determine the charges that you are facing and prepare a defense.
The most common type of fundraising scam deals with charity organizations. Here individuals set up a charity and register it through their state and IRS to receive benefits. Through collections, the agency generates revenue but does not deliver on their promises. The money is spent on the owner and other members of the scam operation. Some spend minuscule amounts of the funds, such as 3 cents of the dollar towards their cause and then pocket the rest. Many organizations target the elderly and veterans to generate the most income possible. Before donating any funds, it is critical to see where your money is going.
When donating to a charity fund, it is important to note who the money is being sent to. It is best to use electronic methods of payment. This can be seen on your bank transactions to confirm that the amount debited was the amount you intended to donate. The funds are also traceable this way as they are not with cash. Money should also be given to organizations that are well known and are run through one of the various charity checker sites.
If you or someone you know has donated funds to a charitable source and believe it is a fraud. It is important to report your concerns to FTC, Federal Trade Commission, to initiate an investigation into the agency. Remember, scammers will try to rush your decision, set up recurring donations, and have vague claims.
If you are involved in the execution of one of these types of businesses, you open yourself up to criminal and civil suits. There are charges associated with the fraud itself and other criminal activity such as wire fraud, larceny, tax evasion, embezzlement and more that can be added on. There can also be civil suits filed from the donors to receive refunds on their money. The criminal penalties can range up to $250,000 for an individual, and one million if you made a cooperation and then up to 20 years in prison for each count. The civil penalties involve payments or restitution to the victims of the fraud.
If you are facing charges relating to any type of fraud such as fundraising or charity, a lawyer should be contacted to review your options. Again, there are civil and criminal penalties at risk so it is critical to consult legal representation for a review of your individual case.
Social Media Frauds
Another threat that is associated with frauds involve social media. Through agencies such as Facebook, GoFundMe, Kickstarter, Twitter, and more an individual can collect money for any purpose and does not need to provide proof to that agency of what the funds were used for. This places the individual at risk not only for the fraud of the funds, but also theft of their personal information and misuse.
The only real way to avoid being caught in the web of one of these scams is to research who you give your money to. It is important to know who and what you are giving money to. The sources that collect these funds are often used to promote illegal activity such as illicit drugs. These agencies can be avoided by checking who you donate to online. These agencies target individuals via various methods to collect their information for misuse. There are also fake profiles on many platforms. These are used to boost follower counts. This would grant the host more advertising revenue, sponsors and donations. Many platforms such as Twitter and Facebook have begun to purge the bots, however many still exist.
If you are a part of a fundraising attempt on social media, it is important to know of others that are misusing the platform and prevent yourself from slipping to that side. Those individuals are subject to charges of embezzlement, fraud, larceny and civil suits as well. The fines can include restitution to the victims in addition to jail time for the act itself. An attorney should be contacted as soon as possible if you suspect you are involved in a fraudulent activity to prevent yourself from facing the various charges.
Recent Press Releases Involving Mail Fraud, Wire Fraud and Other Forms of Fraud:
Press Release #1:
Shawanda Nevers was charged with:
- Preparation of false tax returns
- Forging signature of federal judge
- Contempt of court
- Bank Fraud
Nevers allegedly prepared false tax documents and submitted false expenses. Her scheme allowed for her to pocket funds involving tax deductions for work expenses. She was ordered by a federal judge to stop filing returns. However, she continued to do so and forged a federal bankruptcy judge’s signature on paperwork. She faces over 35 years in prison total, fines, and restitution as well. She has not been sentenced at this time.
Press Release #2:
Melissa Thomas was charged with:
She worked for a political committee and was responsible for the accounting. She admitted to writing several checks to herself and also forging the signature on the checks. She plead guilty to her charges and can face up to 30 years in prison and a quarter million dollars in fines. The FBI gathered the evidence on her case which showed the theft of just over $17,000 in funds from the fundraising political committee.
Press Release #3:
Christopher Petrella was charged with:
- Mail fraud
- Making false statements in regards to USPS investigation
- Obstruction of justice
- Money Laundering
His case involved a fake company that made natural gas and electric cars. They promised high yield returns to investors when taking the money when in fact there was no company to produce the cars. He has been sentenced on some of his charges and awaits trial for the charge of making false statements.
Press Release #4:
Robert Stencil was charged and plead guilty to:
- 13 counts wire fraud
- 13 counts mail fraud
- Conspiracy to commit mail fraud
- Money laundering
He was sentenced in regards to his case where he sold stock to a fake company. The company only existed in fake stocks for which they promised high returns to investors. He managed to make over 5 million dollars from the sale of stocks. He has not yet been sentenced at this time.
- 5 Ways to Prevent Fraud in Schools. 11/12/18. Retrieved from https://www.yeoandyeo.com/blog/5-ways-to-prevent-fraud-in-schools
- 18 US Code Section 1344. Bank Fraud. (n.d.) Retrieved from https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/1344
- 940 18 USC Section 1341- Elements of Mail Fraud. (n.d) Retrieved from https://www.justice.gov/jm/criminal-resource-manual-940-18-usc-section-1341-elements-mail-fraud
- 941 18 USC 1343- Elements of Wire Fraud. (n.d.) Retrieved from https://www.justice.gov/jm/criminal-resource-manual-941-18-usc-1343-elements-wire-fraud
- Bank Fraud. 5/29/15. Retrieved from https://legaldictionary.net/bank-fraud/
- Bank Fraud. (n.d.) Retrieved from https://www.justia.com/criminal/offenses/white-collar-crimes/fraud/bank-fraud/
- BBB Tips: Avoiding Ticket Scams. 3/26/19. Retrieved from https://www.bbb.org/article/tips/13986-bbb-tip-buying-tickets
- Bogus Charity Operator Sentenced. 10/19/18. Retrieved from https://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/bogus-charity-operator-sentenced-101918
- Cohn, Scott. 8/17/18. Think you can spot a Fraud? Retrieved from https://www.cnbc.com/2018/08/16/think-you-can-spot-a-fraud-this-80-million-art-scam-fooled-experts.html
- Daab, Rob. 06/2005. Art Fraud Forges Ahead. Retrieved from https://www.fraud-magazine.com/article.aspx?id=4294967744
- Fraud Resources. (n.d.) Retrieved from. https://www.occ.treas.gov/topics/consumer-protection/fraud-resources/index-fraud-resources.html
- Forgery. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.justia.com/criminal/offenses/white-collar-crimes/forgery/
- Guthrie, Gary. 7/23/18. FTC comes down hard on charity scams. Retrieved from https://www.consumeraffairs.com/news/ftc-comes-down-hard-on-charities-that-scam-veterans-and-armed-forces-members-072318.html
- Harris, Jodi. 9/12/18. Influencer Marketing Fraud: The Shady Side of Social Media. Retrieved from https://contentmarketinginstitute.com/2018/09/influencer-marketing-fraud/
- How to Donate wisely and avoid charity Scams. (n.d.) Retrieved from https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/how-donate-wisely-and-avoid-charity-scams
- Internet and Social Media Fraud. (n.d.) Retrieved from https://www.investor.gov/protect-your-investments/fraud/types-fraud/internet-social-media-fraud
- Keane, Marguerite. (n.d.) Art Fraud. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/topic/art-fraud
- Lottery Fraud: If you have to pay, then you didn’t win. 7/16/12. Retrieved from https://www.justice.gov/archives/opa/blog/lottery-fraud-if-you-have-pay-you-didn-t-win
- Lottery Scams. (n.d.) Retrieved from https://www.fraud.org/lottery_scams
- Mail Fraud. (n.d.) Retrieved from https://criminal.findlaw.com/criminal-charges/mail-fraud.html
- Mail Fraud. (n.d.) Retrieved from https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/mail_fraud
- Mail Fraud. Understanding and Preventing. (n.d.) Retrieved from https://postalinspectors.uspis.gov/tips-prevention/mail-fraud/
- McShane, Mike. 12/17/18. Enrollment Fraud Reminds Us That Many Public Schools Aren’t Public. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/mikemcshane/2018/12/17/enrollment-fraud-reminds-us-that-many-public-schools-arent-public/#69eef614257d
- Nathan, Geoffrey. (n.d.) Phone Telemarketing Fraud. Retrieved from https://www.federalcharges.com/phone-telemarketing-fraud-laws/
- Patterson, Richard. (n.d.) Lottery Scams: How do they work? https://www.fightidentitytheft.com/lottery_scams.html
- Phone and Telemarketing Fraud. (n.d.) Retrieved from https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/phone_and_telemarketing_fraud
- Phone Scams. 02/2014. Retrieved from https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0076-phone-scams
- Portman, Janet. Federal Mail Fraud Laws. (n.d). Retrieved from https://www.criminaldefenselawyer.com/crime-penalties/federal/Federal-mail-fraud.htm
- Reinicke, Carmen. 7/31/18. What to consider before buying a concert ticket from a stranger. Retrieved from https://www.cnbc.com/2018/07/31/what-to-consider-before-buying-a-concert-ticket-from-a-stranger.html
- Social Media Investing Fraud. (n.d.) https://efraudprevention.net/home/templates/?a=6
- Telemarketing Fraud. (n.d.) Retrieved from https://www.legalmatch.com/law-library/article/telemarketing-fraud.html
- Telemarketing Fraud. (n.d.) https://criminal.findlaw.com/criminal-charges/telemarketing-fraud.html
- Telemarketing Fraud-FBI. (n.d.) Retrieved from https://www.fbi.gov/scams-and-safety/common-fraud-schemes/telemarketing-fraud
- The Fraud Examiner. (n.d.) Retrieved from https://www.acfe.com/fraud-examiner.aspx?id=4294978536
- Theoharis, Mark. (n.d.) Wire Fraud. Criminal Defense Lawyer. Retrieved from https://www.criminaldefenselawyer.com/resources/wire-fraud.htm
- Werra, Erin. (n.d.) 6 Red Flags for School District Fraud. https://www.skyward.com/discover/blog/skyward-blogs/skyward-executive-blog/november-2018/the-6-step-fraud-test
- Wire Fraud. (n.d.) Retrieved from https://criminal.findlaw.com/criminal-charges/wire-fraud.html