Federal Criminal Wire Fraud Charges

Fraud is a type of crime that can take on many different identities. Wire fraud 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.
What Constitutes Wire Fraud
The federal criminal statute for wire fraud 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. ”
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
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 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
There are two main ways to fight a charge of wire fraud, 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 can be successful depending upon the facts of the case. 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 has been charged with wire fraud or a similar type of fraud such as mail fraud, contact Attorney Michael A. Fiumara at Fiumara & Milligan Law, PC today at 707-571-8600 OR 415-492-4507 for a free case evaluation.

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