When new federal prosecutors receive their initial training from the Department of Justice they are taught that when they are not sure which statute to charge, they should accuse a defendant of committing mail fraud. 18 U.S.C. '1341.
All the government needs to prove to sustain a mail fraud conviction is that there was (1) a scheme to defraud; (2) which involved the use of the United States Mails; and (3) for the purpose of executing the scheme. The vagueness of the "scheme to defraud" language gives federal prosecutors tremendous discretion to bring mail fraud charges for almost any scheme a person could devise. It is charged almost every day in the United States for bribery, kickback schemes, bank fraud, Ponzi and pyramid schemes, odometer tampering, securities fraud and every other imaginable fraudulent scheme.
The mail fraud statutes also penalizes the theft of honest services when a defendant defrauds his employer. Intangible rights mail fraud prosecutions are growing in number. The government does not even need to prove that a scheme to defraud was successful, or that the intended victim suffered an actual loss, or that the defendant secured a gain. As long as a scheme to defraud is charged, and the mails were used, the government can charge it.
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