Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Mail fraud question for story, please

TO: Virginia Chavez Romano, Executive Director, Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force, United States Department of Justice

Hello Ms. Romano,

I'm researching a story, and I was reading the FFETF's web site, at this link:

... where it states: "Mail fraud is an offense under US law, which refers to any scheme which attempts to unlawfully obtain money or valuables in which the postal system is used at any point in the commission of a criminal offense."

Now, as part of my reporting on this story, I have already asked an attorney if the newsletter described in the following scenario constitutes fraud. He told me, "Yes, that is fraud."

Here's the scenario:

A local government agency produces (using public funds) an official newsletter, then mails that newsletter to "every property owner" in their District.

In that newsletter, the agency raves about how (relatively) inexpensive a public works project is that the agency is proposing, and that its development is "on schedule."

However, several years later, subsequent investigation reveals that at the time the government agency produced that newsletter, the "on schedule" project that they rave about in that newsletter had already failed, and the agency's own documents show the agency knew their proposed project had already failed... a full six months before they produced the newsletter.

Additionally -- and here's the kicker --  in order for the "on schedule" project to be funded, a property tax assessment had to be approved by the town's property owners, and included in the newsletter, is this wording, "Yes. For the assessment district to be formed, 50% of the votes must approve the project," and then the newsletter lists the schedule for the assessment election.

Of course, the newsletter accomplishes its sole purpose: It tricked the town's voters into passing the assessment -- an assessment for a fake-project that had already failed, and, frankly, never even existed in the first place.

So, to recap, the town's elected officials used the property owners' public money to produce a newsletter that clearly lied to "every property owner" about the status of a huge public works project, and those lies tricked the property owners into passing a property tax assessment to fund the already-failed, fake-"project" (a fake-"project" that some of the elected officials had a financial stake in, which, it turns out, was the REAL motive to get the assessment passed.)

Additionally -- and here's kicker #2 -- the fraud-based assessment is a 30-year assessment, that will appear on the town's property tax bills ("more than 4,000")... until the year 2033 -- 17 years from now, for a fake project, that will never exist.

A knowingly false newsletter, produced by a government agency, solely to dupe property owners into passing a tax assessment, leads to the passing of the assessment, but the public works project that the assessment was to fund, had already failed at the time of that newsletter, and the government agency that produced the newsletter was fully aware that it had already failed when they produced the newsletter, which means they, 1) deliberately covered up the fact that their non-project had already failed, and, 2) were deliberately lying to their constituents in that newsletter about the true status of their failed non-project.

Again, I asked an attorney if the above-described newsletter constitutes fraud. He told me, "Yes, that is fraud."

So, with all of that in mind, here is my question, today (in 2016), for the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force.

Considering that the above-described newsletter, produced by a local government agency, constitutes fraud (according to an attorney) -- a "criminal offense" --  and that newsletter was mailed through the U.S. Postal Service, and, according to your agency's web site, "Mail fraud is an offense under US law, which refers to any scheme which attempts to unlawfully obtain money or valuables in which the postal system is used at any point in the commission of a criminal offense," would the above-described newsletter also constitute "mail fraud?"

In other words, is mailing fraud, also mail fraud?

Just a quick "Yes," or "No," answer is all I'm really looking for here, however, if you would like to elaborate, I'd be very interested in reading your response.

If you have any questions, or need any more details, please just ask.

Thank you,

P.S: This email automatically posted to my blog, SewerWatch, at this link:

Thanks again.

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