Wire Fraud

Wire Fraud:18, United States Code, Section 1343

Like Mail Fraud, Wire Fraud is also one of the most commonly charged white collar Federal criminal offenses, found at Title 18, United States Code, Section 1343. The Wire Fraud statute makes it illegal for anyone to use, or cause the use of “wire, radio, or television communication in interstate or foreign commerce” for the purposes of executing a scheme to defraud or to obtain money by false or fraudulent pretenses. It is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. A common misconception about wire fraud is the belief that the lie or fraud itself must involve the wire communication. In reality, all that must be proven (beyond a reasonable doubt) is that the wire communication was used or caused to be used during the course of the fraud – any innocent or otherwise innocuous wiring can bring the crime within the law’s jurisdiction. See 18 USC 1343.

Breaking Down Wire Fraud: Understanding the Crime

Wire Fraud is quite similar to Mail Fraud. Based upon the technological advances with global communication accessible from a phone, watches and even glasses, the use of wire fraud has expanded greatly. The concept of Wire Fraud is the same as Mail Fraud with the only significant difference being that the “wires” are used during the fraud instead of the “mails.” While years ago this literally meant “wires, telephones and television,” it now encompasses all facets of our modern world – email, internet, phone calls, text messaging, Facebook, Skype, videoconferencing, Twitter, among many others.

Wire Fraud Act: Three Essential Elements

If broken down to its “roots,” there are three main elements that constitute Wire Fraud. First, there must be a scheme utilized or instated by the accused and her or she must also devise the “scheme or artifice” to defraud another. Second, again similar to Mail Fraud, a defendant must intend to defraud another. Lastly, interstate wires have to in fact be used or caused to be used during the course of the scheme to defraud.

Wire Fraud Act: Material Misrepresentation

Not all misrepresentations are created equal or enforced equally. A lie that is deemed fraudulent is a misrepresentation in its entirety or in part that is “material.” In order for the misrepresentation to be material, it must be related to the scheme in a specific manner. The “material” misrepresentation must either help an accused pursue his or her criminal activity (i.e., commit the crime) or fool (convince) a target of the fraud to believe the defendant.

Wire Fraud Act: Scheme to Defraud

A Scheme to defraud is a fairly clear concept. The end game of the alleged perpetrator (the accused or the defendant) is to get property or money from another person. To do so, he or she sets a plan into motion, sophisticated or not, to wrongfully obtain the money or property.

Wire Fraud Act: Is the “Wire” Legal or Illegal

Simply, it is irrelevant whether the “wire” in a Wire Fraud case is in and of itself legal or not. Taken a step further, the wire need not even be sent by the defendant. Instead, the Federal criminal law casts a very wide and large net. The standard that must be met is only that it relate to the crime

Wire Fraud: “Wire, Radio or Television Communication”

Originally enacted in 1952, in today’s modern, highly technological world, the phrase “wire, radio or television communication” seems archaic. Today, however, the phrase has come to encompass far more than just wire, radio and television communications. One of the reasons why this crime is a “go to” offense for Federal prosecutors is because it includes all aspects of communication such as via the internet, social media, texting, telephones, instant messaging, and video chats.

Wire Fraud: Penalties and Prison

As with Mail Fraud, the penalties for Wire Fraud can be very serious and life altering. If you are convicted of Wire Fraud, a Federal judge can hand down a sentence that mandates up to 20 years in Federal custody. Compounding matters, whether you have the means to pay or not, a $250,000 fine may also be levied. If the victim of your Wire Fraud is a financial institution, a judge can increase both the imprisonment and the fine. The former can be extended to 30 years while the latter can be increased to $1,000,000.

Any allegation, investigation, arrest or indictment for a Federal offense is as frightening as it is demoralizing. The potential for decades of incarceration and the astronomical fines associated with a conviction can make even the strongest amongst us feel hopeless. Educate yourself on the crimes you face, identify potential defenses and take the steps to protect your future by reaching out to a Federal Criminal Defense Attorney early in the process. There is no substitute for the experience, advocacy and knowledge Crotty Saland PC is prepared to provide you and your family.

Call the Federal criminal lawyers and former prosecutors at (212) 312-7129 or contact us online today.

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