Wire fraud is a federal crime, in which the defendant is accused of defrauding someone out of their property using electronic communication (i.e. TV, radio, phone, internet, fax). There are essential elements of wire fraud as well as serious legal consequences, which we explain below.
Legal Definition of Wire Fraud
According to 18 U.S.C. § 1343, wire fraud is defined as being comparable to mail fraud but requiring the use of an interstate telephone call or other electronic communications to further a scheme to defraud. The essential elements of wire fraud are that:
- The accused voluntarily and intentionally devised and participated in a defrauding scheme
- The accused acted with the intent to defraud
- The use of interstate wire communications was reasonably foreseeable
- Interstate wire communication methods were used
Wire fraud can be committed by an individual or a group of people. The entire crime doesn’t have to be enacted over electronic communications for you to be charged with wire fraud. You can be indicted if you simply planned a fraudulent crime over the phone or used the internet to sell stolen goods.
It is also important to note that you may simply attempt to defraud someone and can be charged. The success of the fraud has no bearing on whether you are charged.
Examples of Wire Fraud
A variety of cases can be prosecuted under the wire fraud statute, such as tax fraud, bank fraud, identity theft, credit card fraud, and mortgage/real estate fraud. Common types of wire fraud include:
- Catfishing (when used to receive money or property)
- Telemarketing scams
- The “Nigerian Prince” scams
If you’ve been following recent national news, you might have seen the recent wire fraud cases being pursued against Jeffrey Gossett or Todd C. Wessels, an Iowa school principal. Both cases are being prosecuted, and the defendants each face a possible maximum sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment, three years of supervised release following any imprisonment, and a $250,000 fine.
Gossett recently pled guilty to felony counts of money laundering and wire fraud in connection with the theft of about $1.8 million of COVID-19 related funds. Between March and August 2020, Gossett plotted to defraud and steal money by submitting fraudulent PPP loans and EIDL applications.
Wessels stole at least $250,000 from the private school system where he worked. Wessels claimed he needed funds for apps for student computers, so he purchased pre-paid debit cards using the school district’s store credit cards. He then electronically transferred the card balances to a PayPal account that he controlled. Wessels also sold computer equipment, belonging to the school district, on third-party websites.
How Serious Is Wire Fraud?
A wire fraud conviction has serious potential consequences of up to 20 years in jail, a supervised release, and around $250,000 in fines. Jail times and fines are also subject to increase if the target of the fraud is a financial institution.
Who Prosecutes Wire Fraud?
The statute of limitations for wire fraud suits is five years, except in cases that impact financial institutions. Then, the statute is ten years. Experienced federal government attorneys prosecute wire fraud cases. In prosecuting a wire fraud case, the prosecution must prove that the accused:
- Was a part of a scheme, in which a victim’s money or property was gained using false statements, information, promises, or misrepresentations
- Knowingly and with intent tried to defraud someone
If you have been charged with wire fraud, you will need the help of an experienced attorney. Wire fraud cases are nuanced, and as you now know, they are punishable by serious imprisonment times and fines.
Our law firm has handled thousands of cases successfully, and we commit ourselves 100% to each case and client. If you or a loved one has been charged with wire fraud, you can trust our attorney to provide you with effective, individualized legal assistance. For a free case review, call the Law Office of Armando J. Hernandez, P.A. at (305) 400-0074 or reach out online.