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18 Duq. L. Rev. 771 (1979-1980)
The Federal Mail Fraud Statute (Part I)

handle is hein.journals/duqu18 and id is 803 raw text is: Duquesne Law Review
Volume 18, Number 4, Summer 1980
The Federal Mail Fraud Statute (Part I)
Jed S. Rakoff*
To federal prosecutors of white collar crime, the mail fraud statute
is our Stradivarius, our Colt 45, our Louisville Slugger, our
Cuisinart-and our true love. We may flirt with RICO,' show off with
10b-5,2 and call the conspiracy law darling,3 but we always come
home to the virtues of 18 U.S.C. § 1341, with its simplicity, adaptabil-
ity, and comfortable familiarity. It understands us and, like many a
foolish spouse, we like to think we understand it. To ask us to explain
it or deal with its problems, however, is quite another matter; but this
article will undertake to try.
The mail fraud statute reads in pertinent part as follows:
Whoever, 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 . .. for the purpose of
executing such scheme or artifice or attempting so to do, places in any
* Partner, Mudge Rose Guthrie & Alexander, New York, N.Y. B.A., 1964, Swarth-
more College; M. Phil., 1966, Oxford University; J.D. 1969, Harvard Univtrsity. The
author, who was Chief of Business Frauds Prosecutions of the United States Attorney's
Office for the Southern District of New York at the time this article was drafted, wishes
to state that the views here expressed do not necessarily represent those of the United
States Attorney's Office or the Department of Justice.
1. Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. §§ 1961-1968
2. 17 C.F.R. § 240.10b-5 (1979) (Rule 10b-5) (employment of manipulative and decep-
tive devices in connection with the purchase or sale of any security).
3. For Judge Learned Hand's description of the federal conspiracy law, 18 U.S.C. §
371 (1976), as that darling of the modern prosecutor's nursery, see Harrison v. United
States, 7 F.2d 259, 263 (2d Cir. 1925).
4. 18 U.S.C. § 1341 (1976).

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