Wire Fraud FAQs
Q. What is wire fraud?
A. Wire fraud generally refers to fraud or theft crimes that are committed using any type of electronic communication device. If someone uses television, radio, telephones, emails, social media apps, banking transactions, or the internet to defraud people of money or other things of value, then they can be charged with wire fraud. The term wire fraud most commonly refers to federal cases because the federal government has jurisdiction over nearly all types of electronic communications. Most people have likely experienced being the potential target of wire fraud via scam robo calls or emails that invite you to give personal information or buy non-existent services or products. If any electronic communication device is used in a theft or fraud, wire fraud is among the potential charges.
Q. What evidence is needed to prove a wire fraud.
A. Generally, the government would first have to prove that there was in fact some type of fraud or theft before they could prove wire fraud. In order to do that, the government must prove that someone defrauded or stole something of value from another with the intent to do so. If the government can establish that a theft or fraud occurred and the person intended it to happen, the government must then demonstrate that an electronic communication device was used in the fraud or theft. For example, if someone uses the internet or email to trick another person to purchase a non-existent product, a wire fraud has occurred and the government can bring a wire fraud charge.
Q. What are the penalties for wire fraud?
A. The penalties for wire fraud can be severe, up to twenty years in prison in most cases and up to thirty years in prison in cases where the fraud involves the declaration of a natural disaster or affects a financial institution, like a bank. In addition to prison time, a person committing wire fraud is subjected to heavy fines and restitution (i.e. paying back the money that was taken as part of the fraud). Furthermore, a conviction for wire fraud will be a permanent mark on someone’s record and can keep them from employment opportunities, especially in the financial field.
Q. What are the defenses to a wire fraud charge?
A. There can be multiple ways to defend against a wire fraud charge. The most common defense is that of “good faith.” Good faith means that the person believed his or her actions were legitimate and legal and were not done in pursuit of a fraud. This can be demonstrated by showing the person acted in conformity with industry standards and practices. Another defense would be to demonstrate that although others may have been involved in a fraudulent scheme and an accused’s actions may have helped the scheme, the accused person was not aware of the scheme to defraud. In addition, there may be defenses based on the statue of limitations, which is five years for most cases of wire fraud.
Q. How do you fight a wire fraud charge?
A. The first and most important step is to consult with and retain an experienced attorney. An attorney will protect your rights by advising you to not speak to the authorities and to communicate with them on your behalf if necessary. An attorney can also review the evidence to determine if a fraud occurred and if so, what defenses may be available. An attorney can also review how the evidence of wire fraud was gathered and whether the evidence was obtained in violation of your constitutional rights. If it was, an attorney can ask the court to keep that evidence out of your case. If the evidence against you is overwhelming, an attorney can negotiate a fair plea deal and sentence. If you are charged with wire fraud, be sure to have an experienced attorney on your side.