Fraud is a type of crime that can take on many different identities. Wire fraud charges is one such identity and it occurs when a scam takes place over interstate wires such as phone lines, electronic sources such as fax machines, or over the Internet. People who commit wire fraud are typically looking for personal financial information. An example of wire fraud involving a telephone is telemarketing fraud. Another common form of wire fraud, one that we have all seen or heard about, is the Nigerian Prince scam. In this scam, the sender says they have money in a Nigerian bank account and that they need to use the reader’s bank account to keep the money safe until they can move it to a safer location. The hope is that the reader will provide their personal banking information so the scammer can use that information to steal their money.
What Constitutes Wire Fraud
The federal criminal statute for wire fraud charges is found at 18 U.S.C. section 1343 which states the following:
““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, transmits or causes to be transmitted by means of wire, radio, or television communication in interstate or foreign commerce, any writings, signs, signals, pictures, or sounds for the purpose of executing such scheme or artifice, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both. If the violation occurs in relation to, or involving any benefit authorized, transported, transmitted, transferred, disbursed, or paid in connection with, a presidentially declared major disaster or emergency (as those terms are defined in section 102 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. 5122)), or affects a financial institution, such person shall be fined not more than $1,000,000 or imprisoned not more than 30 years, or both. ”” – Legal Information Institute
Wire fraud is essentially used as a “catch all” for federal criminal offenses, meaning that it is a charge that is often tacked on because the statute is so broad in its definition and nature.
Being Charged with Wire Fraud
In order to charge an individual with wire fraud, the government must prove that the person knowingly planned a scheme to defraud another of their money or property by using false promises or representations, with the specific intent to defraud. They also must prove that the person knowingly transmitted or caused the transmission through an interstate wire in order to complete the scheme. The government does not have to prove the details of the scheme or that the scheme was successful. They only have to prove that the person they are charging knew about the end goal or planned it and that they used the wires in order to execute their scheme.
Sentencing for Wire Fraud Charges
The use of electronic communications adds to the severity of the penalty so the sentence for a conviction involving wire fraud is greater than the sentence for a conviction involving fraud that does not involve electronic communication. An individual convicted of wire fraud charges can spend anywhere from 20 to 30 years in prison depending on the amount of money they took and how many people they stole from. There is also the potential of being fined up to 1 million dollars.
Legal Defenses against Wire Fraud Charges
There are two main ways to fight wire fraud charges, showing that there was no intent and showing that there was a mistake of fact. You cannot be convicted of wire fraud unless it can be proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the person who was charged intended to commit fraud. Because of the fact that it is difficult for a prosecutor to prove what a person was thinking or intending when they acted a certain way, this line of defense is often useful. The second line of defense, arguing a mistake of fact, applies to most crimes. Under this argument, the person being charged with wire fraud only has to believe that they did not know that they were defrauding another individual.
If you or someone you know is facing wire fraud charges or a similar type of fraud such as mail fraud, contact Orange County criminal defense attorney Karren Kenney for assistance.