Mail fraud is a common type of federal criminal charge. Individuals accused of using the mail to deceive and defraud recipients may face charges from federal prosecutors.

However, the legal definition of mail fraud is quite broad, so it can be confusing to know exactly what constitutes this type of white-collar crime. Here are some elements of mail fraud to help you understand this type of criminal charge.

The use of any interstate carrier

While many instances of mail fraud involve the U.S. Postal Service, the crime may also involve private carriers. Federal mail fraud laws apply to private businesses such as UPS and FedEx because these carriers deliver mail across state lines.

Defrauding is not simple deception

A mail fraud scheme generally requires there to be a scheme to get something of value for nothing in return. This means that deceptive or misleading letters from a person or business that offers a legitimate product or service might not constitute fraud. Mail fraud typically must involve a lie that leads recipients to act in a way that they would not if they did not read the statement.

Criminal intent

In order to be guilty of mail fraud, the perpetrator must intentionally want to cheat a recipient out of his or her money or property. This means the person must have a plan or scheme to take something of value from the recipient. One cannot commit mail fraud by accident.

As you can see, there are certain conditions that must be present in order to prosecute someone for federal mail fraud. If someone does not have the intent to deceive or actually provides a legitimate service, it could well be likely that the charges of mail fraud will not hold up. However, this is just a simple overview of this serious and complex federal crime. You should always seek legal advice if you are facing criminal charges.