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Federal Mail Fraud

For well over a decade, Dallas, Texas criminal defense attorney Jeff King has zealously defended the rights and freedoms of clients accused of the serious crimes of mail fraud and wire fraud. There are 300 postal inspectors assigned to mail fraud investigations. Of the 66,000 mail fraud complaints filed each year, there are more than 1,600 arrests. Convictions can result in enormous fines and substantial prison sentences. Don’t leave your life and reputation in the hands of anyone but the most tenacious and knowledgeable criminal defense attorney. Call the Law Office of Jeffery King today for a free and completely confidential consultation.

What is mail fraud?

Mail fraud can be committed against businesses, consumers, states, local governments, federal agencies, or financial institutions. Unfortunately, the laws pertaining to mail fraud can be far-reaching and vague. The 1872 recodification of the Postal Act, Title 18 of United States Code Section 1341, defines “mail fraud” as:

  • Intentionally devising (or intending to devise) a scheme to obtain money or property by fraudulent means
  • Using the postal service for the purpose of executing the scheme

Mail fraud laws

Since the original law was passed, there have been several amendments to clarify the mail fraud statute:

  • In 1909, the language of Code Section 1341 was added defining the scheme to defraud as the attempt to obtain “money or property by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises.”
  • As part of the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988, the fraud statute was defined as the attempt to “deprive another of the intangible right of honest services.”
  • As part of the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act of 1989, the penalties for mail fraud involving financial institutions increased from maximum fines of $1,000 to $1 million, and maximum prison terms of five to 30 years.

Texas mail fraud laws

In Texas, mail fraud may be categorized as:

  • General mail fraud – fraudulent activity that passes through USPS, UPS, or FedEx carriers.
  • General wire fraud – using radio, TV, or other wires across state lines to defraud.
  • Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act – exploitation of federal responses and powers after disaster.
  • Financial institutions – fraud connected to the workings of a financial institution (“aggravated” mail fraud).

Statute of Limitations for mail fraud

In most cases, offenders can be tried up to five years after the alleged crime has been committed. Cases affecting a financial institution carry a statute of 10 years.

Federal mail fraud penalties

Any crime that uses the United States Postal Service in any way is considered a violation of federal law, which carries very stiff penalties. Most of the time, mail fraud is added on to the laundry list of criminal charges prosecutors have piled onto their lawsuit when they do not have a strong enough case to prosecute the other crimes they have investigated.


Even so, federal mail fraud is a very serious charge that falls under felony sentencing guidelines. Individuals deemed guilty of mail fraud could face fines of up to $250,000 and a five-year jail term. When financial institutions are involved, the penalty increases to a possible $1 million fine and up to 30 years in prison.

Successful mail fraud defenses

A good mail fraud defense focuses on one or more elements of the crime, which the government will need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. Most commonly, defense attorneys go after the claim that the defendant had a willful intent to deprive the plaintiff of money, property, or the right to honest service.


Other common defenses include:

  1. Constructive FraudThe defendant unintentionally failed to disclose a conflict of interest – a form of negligence, which may be mistaken for criminal intent.
  2. Good FaithThe defendant honestly believed the offer would result in a benefit for the recipient. Good faith can be established if no one was in fact defrauded, if the defendant acted in accordance with state law requirements, if there was a lack of financial motive, or if refunds were paid out to at least some customers.
  3. Lack of AuthorityProsecutors must supply evidence that the defendant authorized the material used by employees or that the employees were acting within the scope of normal business operations to defraud.
  4. PuffingThe defendant did not intend to deceive, but was merely exaggerating the good qualities of the service or good being advertised.
  5. Statute of Limitations – In most cases, alleged crimes taking place more than five years ago cannot be tried in court. The one exception is a crime involving a financial institution, which can be tried up to 10 years later.
  6. UncertaintyWhat constitutes “honest services”? In some cases, definitions are lacking, making the law too broad and too vague.

Dallas, Texas mail fraud defense lawyer

If you have been accused of wire fraud or mail fraud, do not hesitate to contact experienced criminal defense lawyer Jeff King. With over 14 years of trial experience and over 1,000 successful verdicts, Jeff King is a name you can trust to defend you against the most serious charges. Contact his Dallas office to discuss the nature of your case in a free consultation.

Additional mail fraud resources

  1. Biz Filings – Recognizing Mail Fraud
  2. Postal Inspectors – Mail Fraud
or CALL 469-399-7001
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4925 Greenville Ave.
Suite 200
Dallas, Texas 75206
T: 469-399-7001
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