Patterico's Pontifications


Crime that Aims to Hurt

Filed under: Crime — DRJ @ 11:21 am

[Guest post by DRJ]

Floridian Mark Carlton Wilcox has been sentenced to home detention, probation, and psychiatric counseling after being convicted of mail fraud that targeted a man (and his wife) who had fired him in 1992. However, instead of seeking money, Wilcox signed up the couple’s deceased daughter for junk mail and magazine subscriptions:

“Sharon Harper and her husband still receive junk mail and magazine subscriptions in their daughter’s name 22 years after she died in a car accident in 1988. Angela Harper was 12 years old and never lived at her parents’ current address.

The worst part, Harper said, is the type of mail being sent.

She was regularly receiving stacks of bridal magazines, working mother publications, college inquiries, vacation guides, information on fertility clinics and credit card applications. Harper said it was a cruel, daily reminder of their loss.”

Even the defendant’s public defender “acknowledged the deplorable nature of his actions and suggested he be disgraced,” although he also argued Wilcox was “not violent and posed no risk of further aggravating the Harpers.” I wonder if that’s true.


19 Responses to “Crime that Aims to Hurt”

  1. my mom was the executrix of my grandfather’ (her father’s) estate. so she had his mail forwarded to her and all that.

    there was no malice, but even years later, now and then she would get a letter addressed to him. it would very often make her cry.

    But that being said, it is a largely nonviolent crime and i would be shocked if he gets more than a year in prison for it.

    And good to post on it, to warn others not to be d–ks that way.

    Aaron Worthing (A.W.) (e7d72e)

  2. One does not fire HappyFunBall.

    spongeworthy (c2e8fe)

  3. This scum got off very lightly, in my opinion.

    htom (412a17)

  4. I agree with htom. The judge ought to have sentenced the bum to work in a hospice for 6 years. If the bums skips, put him in the bendover academy for the balance of the 6 years, no parole.

    PCD (1d8b6d)

  5. The definition of mail fraud in 18 USC 1341 is:

    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,
    or to sell, dispose of, loan, exchange, alter, give away, distribute, supply, or furnish or procure for unlawful use any counterfeit or spurious coin, obligation, security, or other article, or anything represented to be or intimated or held out to be such counterfeit or spurious article,
    for the purpose of executing such scheme or artifice or attempting so to do,
    places in any post office or authorized depository for mail matter, any matter or thing whatever to be sent or delivered by the Postal Service, or deposits or causes to be deposited any matter or thing whatever to be sent or delivered by any private or commercial interstate carrier,
    or takes or receives therefrom, any such matter or thing,
    or knowingly causes to be delivered by mail or such carrier according to the direction thereon, or at the place at which it is directed to be delivered by the person to whom it is addressed, any such matter or thing,
    in typically wordy and hard to follow federal code fashion.

    I don’t know if I could convict if I were a juror.

    (a) there’s no scheme or artifice to defraud.

    the best argument I can come up with is that, by being a d*ck and using third party mailings to harass someone, he is obtaining property from those third parties by means of fraudulent pretenses.

    But it’s pretty weak gruel: it depends on the companies doing the mailing being the victim.

    aphrael (e0cdc9)

  6. “She was regularly receiving stacks of bridal magazines, working mother publications, college inquiries, vacation guides, information on fertility clinics and credit card applications.”

    “Wilcox, who no longer lives in Jacksonville but is still in Florida, said he didn’t realize how much grief he would bring to the Harpers and never meant to be cruel.”

    Yeah, I’m calling bulls–t on Wilcox’s claim, there. From the type of things he was sending, it sounds to me like he knew exactly what he was doing.

    Dwight Brown (ef3990)

  7. No risk? That’s speculation. What he did to them is fact.

    Not that that is relevant to justice today.

    Amphipolis (b120ce)

  8. This is close to stalking and outright harassment – if an individual is allowed to use the public mail in this manner and get off with a light sentence, it sends an unfortunate message to other would – be nutbags. Have we learned nothing after the tragic events surrounding the young girl’s suicide after being taunted and verbally abused repeatedly by another girl’s mother on Facebook?

    Dmac (d61c0d)

  9. Ehhh, this one’s pretty damned iffy. There’s no question the guy may be a major scumbag (I would want to know the circumstances under which he was fired prior to making that judgment), and I’d say his actions show a rather long-term sense of malice (another reason I’d want to know the circumstances under which he was fired) but this seems one of those ridiculously vague misuses of courts to punish vaguely-defined bad behavior in general.

    It’s pretty damned hard to define where he broke the law itself and how. And the potential for misusing this kind of legal decision is pretty extreme.

    The guy’s probably a sh**heel, but that’s not — and should not be — an actionable offense of the courts.

    For the cost of the prosecution you could easily embarrass the SOB publicly with a description of his own behavior, and the result would be far more effective and appropriate. Turn people who he associates with against him — use peer pressure — which is the appropriate tool — to punish the misbehavior.

    IgotBupkis, President, United Anarchist Society (79d71d)

  10. Was the scumbag signing up for/subscribing to the magazines so that the dead girl was getting the bills? There is probably some theft going on there if a few months of the magazines were coming in advance of the publishers being paid. And as others have pointed out–like hell he didn’t know how hurtful his actions would be. To hurt was his sole motivation. He’s a sicky and people need to keep their eye on him.

    elissa (a8eab6)

  11. He’s a sicky and people need to keep their eye on him.

    On that, I agree with you.

    But I’m skeptical that he’s guilty of mail fraud as defined by the statute, and – based on the thousand-foot view given in this news reporting – I have a strong suspicion this was a case of the jury finding someone guilty incorrectly, just because they thought the guy was an ***hole. Which is not the kind of behavior we should encourage or celebrate.

    aphrael (e0cdc9)

  12. He needs to do jail time so someone can punch him… which is a disgrace.
    He should be caned… or waterboarded and not be put into a situation where some otherwise newly law abiding inmate feels like he has to punch the guy and take his milk for being an asshole.

    Inmates should not be looked upon as the arbiters of corporal punishment

    SteveG (fcf23f)

  13. Hard to tell if this guy is dangerous or not but his home address and other public information should be publicized. People should be aware if they live next to this guy.

    ogman (1f2308)

  14. #9 IgotBupkis, President, United Anarchist Society:

    Ehhh, this one’s pretty damned iffy.

    Actually, it isn’t in the least.

    This is a direct violation of 18 USCS § 2261A. Stalking. (2006); using the mail to cause emotional distress. It is also a first degree misdemeanor under Florida’s stalking statute (748.048 p (1)(a) and (2)), punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1000 fine.

    Part of the problem in prosecuting a crime of this nature is that they are relatively rare, and neither law enforcement personnel or prosecutors are familiar with the crime or the laws regarding it. I’ve actually had an FBI agent say “Well, what am I supposed to do?” while attempting to file a complaint under 18 USCS § 2261A. (For interstate communication of a death threat in relation to a stalking investigation in Florida, not harassment via the mail.)

    Stalking behaviors occur along a continuum from simply keeping tabs on the whereabouts of someone else, to serial killing. And there isn’t any indicator when a perpetrator is going to move up the continuum from one behavior to another.

    EW1(SG) (edc268)

  15. EW(1)SG: if that’s what he was convicted of, then fine. If, on the other hand, he was convicted of mail fraud, than it is a stretch.

    The paper says ‘mail fraud’, but the paper may easily be wrong.

    aphrael (e0cdc9)

  16. #15 aphrael:

    The paper says ‘mail fraud’

    I saw that..again, I wonder if that is because the prosecutor’s office wasn’t aware that the stalking statutes apply?

    EW1(SG) (d27932)

  17. Whoever,
    having devised or intending to devise any scheme or artifice to defraud,
    or for obtaining money or property

    Aphrael, I think all the magazines and postage that he obtained count as property. That is not free. At the levels this sounds like, it’s probably hundreds of dollars worth of catalogs and stamps. Just one catalog can cost a few bucks to produce and mail.

    He didn’t keep the property, but he obtained and used it. I agree, he used to commit a different crime.

    Dustin (b54cdc)

  18. Dustin: as I said above – if that’s the crime in question, then the victim is the magazine companies, not the person he’s sending them to.

    I very much doubt that the moral outrage regarding the crime, the sense that he’s a bad guy, or the jury’s verdict were based on the idea that he’d hurt magazine companies by defrauding them.

    aphrael (e0cdc9)

  19. “if that’s the crime in question, then the victim is the magazine companies, not the person he’s sending them to.”


    but it’s a crime anyway, isn’t it? It’s never ‘Victim vs Offender’ in criminal law, but rather ‘Society vs Offender’

    You said it was a stretch, and I think you’re right that there could be better charges for this criminal… yet this crime of defrauding property obviously did occur.

    It’s not about finding the charge that best captures the ‘moral outrage’ of society sometimes. Sometimes it’s about finding the charge you can prove. I assume that’s why this charge was attempted (and it worked because it’s not really a stretch). Perhaps they were saving other charges in case this one didn’t work?

    I suspect the jury’s verdict actually was based on the idea that he’s defrauded the schools and wedding planners and magazines. That’s assuming the stalkee didn’t get some kind of ‘bill me later’ subscription for the property and money obtained by the criminal to harass them.

    Dustin (b54cdc)

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