The federal government may base a criminal prosecution for mail fraud on allegations that corporate officers defrauded a regulatory agency of statutory fees and royalty payments, a Middle District judge in Pennsylvania has ruled, because the agency’s expectation of such fees is a property interest. But the court held that civil penalties for noncompliance with its regulations can’t form the sole basis of a federal mail-fraud indictment charging that the officers defrauded the agency of “money or property.”

Chief Judge Thomas I. Vanaskie of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania handed down the decision in U.S. v. Mariani, a federal criminal prosecution of Renato P. Mariani, Michael L. Serafini, Leo R. Del Serra and Alan W. Stephens, all corporate officers of Empire Sanitary Landfill Inc.