When someone on the news is talking about a federal criminal case, you might hear the term wire fraud quite often. Why is that? What exactly is wire fraud, 18 U.S.C 1343, and why does it seem to come up in almost every federal case?
What Is Fraud?
Wire fraud in itself is a very basic idea. The U.S. Government would need to prove in a trial that a defendant committed a fraud scheme. Fraud means that the individual deceived someone or an organization into giving them money. For example, such a plan could include convincing an investor to give money for a construction project that does not actually exist.
Fraud could also involve providing false information to a bank or mortgage lender to qualify for a loan. If someone is lying or deceiving to take money from someone else, that is enough to meet the definition of this offense.
When Does a Scheme Become Wire Fraud?
Wire fraud requires only that "interstate wires" were used in committing the fraud. This, of course, seems a very old-fashioned law since we all use cell-phones and the internet 24 hours a day. Almost any transaction that involves submitting information about one's income, electronic documents, money transfers all involve interstate wires. It is difficult to imagine being involved in any financial transaction without going through these channels.
A good example of wire fraud would be someone sending fake income statements or tax returns to a bank to get a loan. Making and sending fake financial documents are separate types of fraud offenses. When someone sends those documents over email or Dropbox, for example, they could be committing wire fraud.
In a federal criminal case, wire fraud is often charged in addition to another offense like tax fraud or fraud against the government. Wire fraud is usually included as a charge because it carries very serious mandatory minimum jail sentences and hefty monetary fines.
Wire fraud is the most simple and clear cut way for a prosecutor to convince a jury at trial that a crime was committed. Proving fraud can be tricky because it requires a jury to believe that someone knew what they were doing was wrong and illegal, and they did it anyway. Fraud has the old problem of intent. A person must intend to defraud when they are engaged in something illegal; otherwise, it's not fraud. The question of "wire" fraud is a very easy one for a jury if they are convinced a defendant wanted to defraud someone out of their money.
Did the defendant lie or make false statements to get money from a person or bank? If they did, was it over a phone or computer? If a jury thinks the answer to both questions is a definite yes, then the defendant has a big problem.
Who Could Be Considered a Victim of Wire Fraud?
In any fraud case, the biggest questions are who was the victim and how much was taken. There is really no specific type of victim when it comes to federal crimes. Whether the allegations are that money was stolen from an individual, church, or the U.S. Government, the laws establish harsh punishments for all cases.
What Are the Penalties for a Conviction?
In a wire fraud case, the amounts taken matter a great deal. If the prosecutor alleges that the amount of fraud or theft was under $95,000, the potential jail time would likely increase 2 years. If the alleged fraud involved amounts over $500,000, then it's very likely a judge could sentence someone to well over 5 years in prison.
If you were charged with wire fraud in San Diego, call The Law Office of George Gedulin to discuss your case during a free consultation. We can be reached by phone at (858) 281-4605 or online.