Even as technological advances have created numerous new ways of communicating, the use of the mail system continues to be prevalent, particularly for the transmitting of important pieces of information. While the U.S. mail system provides an efficient method of communicating with other people, it can also be used for criminal activity through the white collar crime known as mail fraud.
Florida Communications Fraud Act
The Florida legislature adopted the Florida Communications Fraud Act with the intent to prevent the use of communications technology in the furtherance of schemes to defraud by consolidating former statutes to permit the prosecution of this crime utilizing the legal precedent available under the federal mail and wire fraud statutes.
Under Florida law, it is a crime for an individual to engage in a scheme to defraud and, in furtherance of that scheme, to communicate with any person with the intent to obtain property from that person. If the value of the property is over $300, the offense is a third degree felony, punishable by a prison term of up to five years and a fine of up to $5,000. If the value of the property is less than $300, the offense is a first degree misdemeanor, which carries a potential prison sentence of up to one year and a fine of up to $1,000.
To communicate means to transmit or transfer, or to cause another to transmit or transfer, signs, signals, writing, images, sounds, data, or intelligences of any nature in whole or in part by mail. A scheme to defraud is defined as a systematic, ongoing course of conduct with the intent to defraud, or with the intent to obtain property by false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises or willful misrepresentations of a future act.
Federal Mail Fraud
Pursuant to federal law, it is a crime when an individual, having devised or intending to devise any scheme or artifice to defraud, or for obtaining money or property by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises, uses the mail system in the furtherance of the scheme or artifice to defraud. A scheme or artifice to defraud is defined as depriving another of the intangible right of honest services. This definition is extremely vague, so much so that the Supreme Court in Skilling v. United States attempted to limit its scope to frauds involving bribes or kickbacks. However, even with this ruling, the law is still vague and, at least for the time being, is up to the trial courts to interpret what the intangible right of honest services means.
An individual convicted of mail fraud faces a fine and/or a potential prison term of up to 20 years. If the violation occurs in relation to a presidentially declared major disaster or emergency, or affects a financial institution, the fine may be up to $1 million and the prison sentence up to 30 years.
White Collar Crime Defense
If you are under investigation for mail fraud, it is important for you to speak with an attorney with experience defending white collar crime cases. White collar crimes can result in both state and federal charges. Contact the West Palm Beach criminal defense attorneys at Farkas & Crowley, P.A. and let us help you protect your rights.