Wire Fraud Lawsuit

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 What Is Wire Fraud?

In short, wire fraud is a specific form of criminal fraud. Criminal fraud is a criminal act that involves a scheme to cheat or deceive another individual or entity in order to obtain a financial gain or similar type of gain.

Although the actual definition of what is considered to be criminal fraud will differ by state, in general, any action that is intended to deceive another person or entity through false representation of a fact that results in legal detriment to the individual who relied on the information may be considered an act of criminal fraud.

As the use of telecommunications and the internet has evolved, it has been easier for individuals to initiate contact with other individuals instantaneously. Due to the rise in telecommunication technology, crimes that take advantage of telecommunication technology have also risen. As such, there has been a rise of con artists that utilize telephones, cell phones, fax machines, e-mail communications, social media, and other telecommunications in order to fraud others.

Wire fraud may be charged as either a federal crime or a state crime. According to the federal United States Criminal Code wire fraud statute, an individual is said to have committed the crime of wire fraud if they devised or intended “any scheme or artifice to defraud, or for obtaining money or property by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises, transmits or causes to be transmitted by means of wire, radio, or television communication in interstate or foreign commerce, any writings, signs, signals, pictures, or sounds for the purpose of executing such scheme or artifice.”

In other words, wire fraud is a criminal act where an individual intentionally deceives another individual in order to obtain financial or personal gain. Because wire fraud employs the use of electronic telecommunications and affects interstate commerce, the federal crime of wire fraud is generally handled by either the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (“FBI”) white-collar crime division or the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) depending on the facts of the case.

Once again, wire fraud may also be charged as a state crime. Although the exact legal elements necessary to determine wire fraud will differ by state, in general, in order for an individual to be convicted of criminal fraud, the state prosecution must prove:

  • That there was a misrepresentation of a material fact by means of a wire communication;
  • The misrepresentation was by an individual who knew the material fact was false;
  • There was an intent to defraud;
  • A person or entity justifiably relied on the misrepresentation of fact; and
  • The individual or entity that relied on the misrepresentation suffered actual injury or damages as a result of their reliance on that false fact.

It is important to note that each separate attempt at wire fraud constitutes a separate criminal act. As such, a criminal actor may receive multiple charges of wire fraud. Further, the individual may be charged under both state and federal law depending on the specific facts of the wire fraud case. Finally, in order to be convicted of wire fraud, the prosecution does not generally have to prove that the alleged scheme to defraud succeeded.

What Is a Scheme to Defraud?

Once again, a scheme to defraud is an act of criminal fraud that involves a scheme to cheat or deceive another individual or entity in order to obtain a financial gain or similar type of gain. Most often, a scheme to defraud is considered to be a white-collar crime. As such, the criminal statutes and punishments involving schemes to defraud involving wire communications may often be found under a state’s criminal statutes concerning white-collar crimes.

What Are Some Common Wire Fraud Schemes?

There are many different methods employed by con artists and scammers in order to defraud individuals for financial gain. Examples of wire fraud schemes include, but are not limited to:

  • Electronic communications that offer a prize in exchange for a sum of money;
  • Electronic communications notifying individuals have won a sweepstakes but must first send an amount of money to an address to receive their larger prize;
  • Electronic communications regarding free and/or discounted anti-virus software from a company;
  • Electronic communications involving credit card offers;
  • Electronic communications involving magazine sales with no intent to provide a product;
  • Electronic communications regarding loan offers with no intent to provide a loan;
  • Electronic communications where a person commits identity theft and attempts to defraud someone by acting as a person that they know
    • It is important to note that wire fraud involving identity theft has been on the rise since the rise of social media, as an individual’s account may be hacked and then used to take advantage of close relationships in order to ask others for money;
  • Electronic communications involving programs to work from home in exchange for a monetary fee to set the work;
  • Electronic communications involving vacation offers.

What Are the Penalties for Wire Fraud Charges?

As mentioned above, The FTC and FBI are the federal agencies that are responsible for proving that an individual is guilty of wire fraud. In general, once someone has filed a complaint with the FTC, the agency will investigate the complaint. Then, if a violation has, in fact, occurred, the agency will begin adjudication proceedings in order to prosecute the violator.

Additionally, each state maintains its own wire fraud laws and may pursue con artists and scammers themselves. As such, the legal penalties for wire fraud will be dependent on a variety of factors, including whether the specific attempt to defraud is being charged as a federal or state crime.

Under federal laws, individuals convicted of wire fraud may be punished by imprisonment of not more than 20 years, criminal fines of not more than $1,000,000, or a combination of both for each act of wire fraud.

However, if the wire fraud attempts to utilize a scheme to defraud in connection with a presidentially declared major disaster or emergency or affects a financial institution, then the individual guilty of wire fraud may face penalties of imprisonment of not more than 30 years, criminal fines of up to $1,000,000, or a combination of both.

The legal penalties involving state laws will differ by state. However, in general, if an individual is convicted under state wire fraud statutes, then they may receive the following legal penalties:

  • Criminal fines of anywhere between $250,000 to $500,000 for each attempt to defraud;
  • Imprisonment of not more than 20 years for each criminal offense;
  • An additional 30 years of imprisonment for wire fraud that is connected to a national disaster or emergency or that impacts a financial institution.

Do I Need an Attorney for a Wire Fraud Case?

If you are involved in wire fraud, whether as the plaintiff or the defendant, it is in your best interests to contact an experienced fraud attorney. An experienced fraud attorney can help you determine your legal rights and options, as well as raise any available legal defenses based on your state’s specific laws.

As can be seen, the legal punishments for wire fraud are severe, and individuals are punished for their acts of wire fraud. As such, if you are being criminally charged with wire fraud, it is important to secure the assistance of an attorney to clear your name. Further, a fraud attorney may also be able to pursue a civil case to recover monetary funds that you lost if you are a victim of wire fraud. Additionally, a wire fraud attorney will also be able to represent you in court as needed.


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