Have you or has anyone you know been charged with wire fraud?
Wire Fraud is a crime involving interstate communications devices – such as mail, telephone, fax, email, etc. – used to defraud or try to defraud someone of money, property or anything else of value.
For example, a person trying to sell a house that does not belong to them over the Internet is committing wire fraud. Wire fraud is a federal crime which can have serious consequences.
There’s no need to be afraid you may accidentally commit wire fraud. To make a case against someone, prosecutors must show a defendant had the intent to defraud someone.
Generally, wire fraud is a scheme someone plans using deceptive means: false statements, promises or misrepresentations of facts. That person trying to sell a house that isn’t theirs will use pictures of a real house and obscure his or her real identity.
Interstate Communications Devices
Wire fraud includes the use of interstate communications devices. Such devices can be anything that can send, receive or otherwise transmit messages across state lines. This includes a phone, fax machine, or any kind of Internet communication. It also includes television and radio communication.
Loss of Money or Honest Services
To be convicted of wire fraud, it doesn’t matter if the victim actually lost any money. The law is written to prohibit schemes to defraud, so even if that person doesn’t actually obtain money for the house he or she is attempting to sell, he or she can be convicted of wire fraud for the attempt.
In addition, a person may be charged with wire fraud when engaging to defraud others of “honest services.” In the case of a public official – who has a duty to provide honest or ethical services to the public – using an interstate communication device to violate his or her duties constitutes wire fraud. In this way, bribery or kickback schemes perpetrated by government officials can be wire fraud even if their victims weren’t actually defrauded of money personally.
Separate Offenses – Separate Counts
If our example, if the person sent an email to five people or posted an entry in five separate places attempting to sell a house that wasn’t theirs, he or she could be charged with five separate counts of wire fraud. Each act of fraud is its own even though he or she may be using the same fraudulent information.
When federal prosecutors are attempting to make a case against someone for securities fraud, if they don’t feel they have enough evidence to get a conviction, they will use wire fraud as a “catch-all.” If they knew someone used a communication device for the securities fraud, they will also pursue and charge a defendant with wire fraud as well.
Penalties for Wire Fraud
If a person is found guilty of wire fraud, he or she may face significant penalties. Fines and up to 20 years in prison can accompany a guilty verdict for just one act of wire fraud.
It can be more severe if the fraud affects a financial institution or is connected to an emergency or a presidentially declared disaster. Fines of up to $1,000,000 and up to 30 years in prison can be the penalty for a guilty verdict of wire fraud in these situations.
If you are or someone you know is facing a charge of wire fraud, now is the time to contact an experienced federal defense attorney.
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