Proof of mail fraud requires four elements, and one of these is the intent to defraud someone out of either money or property. When you go to court for mail fraud charges, you may think that a lack of solid proof of your intentions will protect you from a conviction. However, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, the prosecution does not actually need direct evidence.
How can the judge rule against you if there is no proof that you intended to commit mail fraud?
Inference of intent
Even if you never took any money or diverted any funds that did not belong to you, the prosecution will be looking at the bigger picture. With this broader overview, a prosecutor must be able to infer, or deduce, whether you intended to commit a crime.
Evidence of intent
Witnesses may testify that they received mail that included false statements about an investment opportunity and that these indicate an attempt to defraud them. Although they did not ever send you any money or invest in your offer, the prosecution may use the testimony to indicate your intent to commit a crime.
Or, perhaps you received letters complaining that your advertising mailers contained misleading statements. However, you never issued corrections or amended the information to remove the false statements. The prosecution may present those complaint letters to show that you had reason to know your mailers did not accurately reflect your offers.
Lack of harmful intent
Merely proving that you attempted to deceive someone is not enough. The prosecution must show that you intended to defraud through your misrepresentation or false statements.
If the alleged scheme would not cause any financial harm to its target audience, then the mere existence of a scheme is not enough to prove criminal intent. The prosecution would have to provide alternative evidence showing that the purpose of the scheme was to defraud.