What Constitutes Federal Wire Fraud?

Federal wire fraud is best defined as any fraudulent scheme that intentionally deceives another via a wire format. A wire format is open to interpretation, however, common forms of communication via wires include television advertisements, internet services such as emails or faxes, and telephone calls. That being said, in order for someone to be guilty of federal wire fraud, there are four elements that must be proven to move towards a conviction.  There are also some common wire fraud defenses that are discussed in a separate blog post.

Federal Wire Fraud Requires a Scheme

The first element of wire fraud is the defendant voluntarily and intentionally devised or participated in a scheme to defraud another out of money.  The defendant must have either created or been a part of a fraudulent scheme that would take away money from another individual. Whether or not the plan actually succeeded is irrelevant, only that an attempt to defraud someone was made is of relevance.

Federal Wire Fraud Requires an Intent to Defraud

The second element of wire fraud is the defendant carried out this plan with the intent to defraud.  While it would be logical to assume that the plan to defraud someone is enough to satisfy intent, it is not. According to United States v. Bailey, 859 F.2d 1265, 1273 (7th Cir. 1988) the court held that there must be sufficient evidence that the defendant acted with intent to defraud, which is, “willful participation in [the] scheme with knowledge of its fraudulent nature and with intent that these illicit objectives be achieved.” Therefore, creating a fraudulent plan, perhaps on accident or by other non-intentional means, would not satisfy this requirement. To be guilty of intent, the prosecution must demonstrate that the defendant had knowledge of what was going on in the fraudulent scheme itself, and the desired outcomes of what the scheme would achieve.

Federal Wire Fraud Requires Reasonable Foreseeability

The third element of wire fraud is it was reasonably foreseeable that interstate wire communications would be used.  During the formation of the plan to defraud another individual, it is evident that wire communications, (internet, television, telephone calls, etc.) would be the assumed or obvious method of communication to defraud in regards to the specific fraudulent activity the defendant is charged with. While wire communications may not have been the only possible route of defrauding someone in relation to this scheme, it could be reasonably assumed that such wire methods would be used to carry out the plan.

Federal Wire Fraud Requires Interstate Wire Communications

The fourth element of wire fraud is interstate wire communications were in fact used during the scheme to defraud.  There is documented evidence of wire communications being used during the fraudulent scheme to take away money from other individuals.

These are the four elements that the prosecution must satisfy in order to push towards a conviction in court. If a conviction is reached, depending on who the wire fraud affects, punishments for federal wire fraud can vary to either a 20 or 30 year maximum prison sentence, along with significant fines ranging up to 1,000,000 dollars. Federal wire fraud is a significant crime and should not be taken lightly.

If you or someone you know is facing federal wire fraud charges , contact Attorney Karren Kenney at Kenney Legal Defense Corporation at (855) 505-5588 to start the fight for your rights today!  


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