Federal Authorities Crack Down on Mail Marketing Fraud

In a number of recent high profile cases, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Fraud Section, together with agents from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, have been targeting fraudulent mail solicitations scams in the U.S. On May 31, 2024, a federal jury in Colorado returned guilty verdicts against two former senior officers of the Epsilon corporation who were charged with selling consumer lists to fraudsters targeting the elderly and vulnerable. The consumer mailing lists provided by the executives to the fraudsters were then used to send scam letters to the victims promising large prizes or falsely personalized astrological mailings promising wealth.  In order to convict, the jury had to find that the two executives knew that the mailing lists would be used in the fraud scams. The case represents an expansion by the government in the scope of those charged in false mailing schemes, beyond the actual perpetrators, seeking to charge all those who knowingly aid and abet these schemes, and not just the mailers.

The case is one in a series of mail fraud prosecutions being brought by the DOJ targeting these mailings. In April, a jury in Brooklyn convicted Patrice Runner for running a $175 million mail fraud scheme targeting the elderly in the U.S. After having been extradited from Spain to face the charges in Brooklyn, Runner went to trial and was sentenced in May to 10 years in jail. The government introduced evidence at trial that Runner sent letters to more than 1.3 million U.S. consumers, many of whom were elderly and vulnerable, that falsely purported to be individualized, personal communications from well-known so-called “psychics” Maria Duval and Patrick Guerin and promised that the recipient had the opportunity to achieve great wealth and happiness with the assistance of the “psychics” in exchange for payment of a fee.

Takeaway: Federal law enforcement remains focused on charging criminally those involved in alleged mail fraud—ranging from the mailers to suppliers, such as list brokers, to those aiding and abetting the scheme.

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