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What is mail fraud, and is it a federal crime?

There are many kinds of fraud that take place in the United States, but one that is strictly forbidden is mail fraud. Mail fraud refers specifically to any fraud that passes through the U.S. Postal Service (USPS).

Mail fraud has a broad definition, and it can include any scheme that sells, distributes, supplies or counterfeits. It may also include acts that are performed to obtain property or money under false pretenses.

To be accused of mail fraud, a person must have used the USPS to deliver or receive something to do with the scheme. For example, if a person sends a check through the mail to pay the other party for products that end up being counterfeit, the use of the mail to deliver funds and the product could result in mail fraud charges.

Not all mail fraud charges are federal matters, and knowing if your case is a federal or state case is important. If your case did not involve mail moving in or out of the state, then your case is likely to be handled in accordance with state law. If the mail traveled in and out of the state, then the federal government has jurisdiction over the case in accordance with the Commerce Clause of the Constitution.

If you are found guilty of mail fraud, you could face up to 20 years in prison. In some cases, if the fraud involves benefits that are related to certain natural disasters or financial institutions, the penalty can be extended to a prison sentence of up to 30 years. Your attorney can help you defend yourself, so you can fight against heavy penalties and charges you don't deserve.

Source: FindLaw, "Mail Fraud," accessed May 11, 2017

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