A Comprehensive Guide to Wire Fraud
When one party defrauds another via an electronic communication, this would be considered the white-collar crime that is known as wire fraud. In 2019 alone, over $220 million was lost as a result of real estate wire fraud. The prosecution must prove several elements in order for a wire fraud conviction to occur.
What Does Wire Fraud Entail?
Wire fraud involves any kind of fraudulent activity that occurs via signals, pictures, sounds or writings that are effectively transmitted through a wire. These methods could include radio, fax, telephone, internet or television. In order for someone to be convicted of wire fraud, the prosecution for the case will typically be tasked with proving that:
- The individual created a scheme to commit wire fraud
- The individual intended to commit wire fraud
- A wire-based technology was used to complete the scheme in question
When looking at the scheme aspect of wire fraud, there usually needs to be intent for a conviction to occur. If the defendant planned to make a false or misleading statement to accrue money or an item of value from another entity, fraud has likely occurred. Participating in wire fraud without knowing that you are doing so is not enough to obtain a conviction. On the other hand, a conviction can occur if fraud was a foreseeable result of the action.
Keep in mind that wire fraud convictions can occur even if the scheme was ultimately unsuccessful. Many different actions constitute wire fraud. Using any kind of interstate communication device to transmit materials would be classified as wire fraud. As mentioned previously, these messages or transmissions can be sent through the radio, telephone, internet, television, email and fax machine. Wire fraud can also occur when one individual pressures another person to perform a wire transfer.
Wire fraud can occur as a part of bank, insurance or tax scheme. The types of information that can be transmitted in an attempt to commit fraud include improper statements that were made to investors or customers, incorrect income documents, and fraudulent bank statements. Wire fraud is considered to be a serious offense and the penalties are severe if a conviction is obtained.
Some Examples of Wire Fraud
Many cases of wire fraud involve the act of defrauding businesses, and it is very common for banks to be the victims. Another common example is when false insurance claims are made in an attempt to obtain compensation for injuries or other losses that did not actually occur. While many cases of wire fraud involve businesses, it is important to understand that it is common for someone’s personal financial information is targeted as well.
Hackers who gain access to someone’s bank account or credit card information could be convicted of wire fraud if the information was used to obtain money for their own benefit. Wire fraud can happen if financial information is obtained as a part of telemarketing fraud, phishing or internet scams. Phishing is a serious cyberattack that involves using deceptive websites or emails to obtain personal information from unsuspecting individuals.
Perhaps the most famous example of wire fraud is the highly-publicized scam involving a “Nigerian prince.” The scam begins with an email that’s sent to an individual by an alleged member of Nigerian royalty. This email will contain details about an unfortunate situation that the sender is in and that has made him unable to gain access to his bank account. The “prince” will then request bank account information from the recipient of the email so that he can deposit his money into the account for a short period of time.
If the email recipient complies with the request, the bank account information will be used to get access to the account and all the funds that are available in it. Despite the obvious nature of this particular scam, wire fraud can also be subtle and difficult for someone to avoid, which is why the penalties are severe.
Penalties Associated With Wire Fraud
There is a range of serious penalties that is associated with a wire fraud conviction. When someone has been charged with having committed it, resolving the case doesn’t always involve getting the charges overturned completely. There are times when the goal of the defense will be to reduce the penalties and obtain a lighter sentence. Wire fraud is a federal crime, which means that the penalties are consistent no matter where you live.
One of the more notable aspects of potential wire fraud penalties is that every specific instance of wire fraud is considered to be a separate act.. As an example, let us assume that someone sends 10 emails to different recipients in an attempt to commit wire fraud. Each email would count as a single act of wire fraud, which means that the penalties can accrue quickly. Even though wire fraud is a federal offense, each state can choose to pursue additional charges that occur in conjunction with the federal allegations.
The federal penalties that are attached to wire fraud include:
- Fines of as much as $250,000 for individuals
- Fines of as much as $500,000 for companies and organizations
- As long as 20 years in a federal prison
Keep in mind that the potential penalties are stiffer if the wire fraud involves a federal financial institution or a federal disaster. Federal disasters must be declared by the current president.
Potential Legal Defenses for a Wire Fraud Case
If you have been charged with wire fraud, it is highly recommended that you seek the advice and counsel of our Morristown criminal defense lawyer. We can help you build your defense to identify the most appropriate strategy for your specific situation. Several legal defenses are commonly used in cases involving wire fraud, and they can include a lack of the requisite intent, puffery, and a mistake of fact. “Puffery” occurs when someone uses exaggerated claims or statements in an attempt to sell a product. If these statements are made over the phone or by email, they likely wouldn’t result in a conviction for wire fraud since the customer should understand that the statements aren’t wholly accurate or representative of the product in question.
A lack of intent is an affirmative defense that can be used when the defendant didn’t intend to commit wire fraud. The prosecution is tasked with proving that the defendant intended to commit fraud, which is very difficult to do. As for a mistake of fact, a wire fraud conviction depends on the defendant making misleading or false statements. However, the defendant may have believed these statements to be true, which means that the false information wasn’t being communicated intentionally. Wire fraud cases can be complicated, which is why there are numerous defenses that can be used.
Are you currently being investigated for wire fraud? If so, the defense strategies that are used in your case will likely play a substantial role in the results. Call our Morristown criminal defense lawyer today at (973) 898-0161 to discuss your matter. We have offices located throughout the state of New Jersey in Parsippany, Jersey City, Springfield, Elizabeth, Newark, Freehold, Mount Laurel, and Hackensack, and we also have offices in New York City and Decatur, Georgia.