Federal Wire Fraud Explained
Wire fraud is a federal crime that involves any scheme to defraud another person or party by means of electronic communication.
This charge can take many forms. A person can be charged with this in connection to a telemarketing, television, or radio campaign. Electronic communication is not limited to the phone, television, or radio. Internet scams like phishing through websites or email are also mediums which apply under 18 USC 1343.
Federal authorities usually charge additional offenses alongside wire fraud, including crimes that might otherwise only be subject to state laws. Many wire fraud indictments also include allegations of conspiracy, mail fraud, and other white collar crimes.
Wire fraud is a federal crime, and the penalties include:
- Up to twenty (20) years in federal prison
- Up to $250,000 in fines for individuals
- Up to $500,000 in fines for organizations
What are some defenses to wire fraud charges?
The prosecution must prove certain elements are present in a crime in order to secure a conviction. Wire Fraud essentially has three elements which need to be proven in order to convict, which can be broken down as follows:
- Voluntary and intentional scheme to defraud for financial gain
- Specific intent to defraud
- Use of interstate wire communications (electronic communication)
The element of “specific intent to commit fraud” ensures that you cannot accidentally commit wire fraud. However, it is possible to lack “specific intent” and still be guilty of wire fraud through what is called “reckless indifference.”
What is reckless indifference? If you wrote in an email to potential investors that your product was “50% more effective than the competitor” as a way to secure their financial support, but you don’t have factual evidence to support this claim, you may be guilty of wire fraud. In this example, the government would argue you had a “reckless indifference” to the truth, regardless of the fact that you did not necessarily lie to the investors.
In order to be convicted of wire fraud it must be proven that you intended to commit fraud. Intent can be a difficult thing to prove as it is impossible to know for certain what another person is thinking. If there is insufficient evidence to prove your intent, you cannot be convicted.
Often a wire fraud case rests on the communication of false or misleading statements. If, however, you communicated false information that you believed to be true, you cannot be convicted of knowingly and intentionally communicating false information in an attempt to defraud. For example, if you send an email to potential investors citing that the weight loss pill you sell has a 90% success rate which you believe to be true based on the information you have been given, but it turns out the pill only has a 30% success rate, you were not intentionally communicating false information, but instead had mistaken facts.
Parmer Law – Federal White Collar Crime
Molly Parmer opened Parmer Law in 2019 after years of work as a public defender at both the state and federal level. After law school she worked at the Law Office of the DeKalb County Public Defender and then at the Federal Defender Program in Atlanta as a trial attorney. There, she represented clients accused of crimes like money laundering, white-collar crimes, drug trafficking, and more.
Molly brings tenacity and a wealth of experience when she represents her clients. She has handled nearly every type of criminal case in every type of court. Her familiarity with criminal practice and track record of excellence are only outweighed by her passion to defend the accused.
If you’ve been charged with a crime or are currently under investigation, contact Parmer Law today.