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Understanding Federal Wire Fraud

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Under the federal system, mail fraud and wire fraud are two closely-related offenses that involve use of different types of media to commit various forms of fraud. For an overview of the federal mail fraud statute and to see some examples of activities that constitute of wire fraud, visit our page on Mail and Wire Fraud. For more details on the federal wire fraud statute, continue reading below.

The Federal Wire Fraud Statute: 18 U.S.C. Section 1343

The federal offense of wire fraud is outlined in the Section 1343 of Title 18 of the United States Code:

Whoever, having devised or intending to devise 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, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both. If the violation occurs in relation to, or involving any benefit authorized, transported, transmitted, transferred, disbursed, or paid in connection with, a presidentially declared major disaster or emergency . . . or affects a financial institution, such person shall be fined not more than $1,000,000 or imprisoned not more than 30 years, or both.

As you can see, the wire fraud statute is extremely broad. For example, not only does it cover actual fraud, but also any attempted or planned fraud. This means that you can be convicted of wire fraud even if you do not ultimately defraud anyone. Due to the statute’s breadth, prosecutors will often include wire fraud charges along with other charges in hopes of obtaining a conviction.

What Constitutes “Wire” Fraud?

Wire fraud encompasses sending or receiving communications in connection with a fraudulent scheme through “wire, radio, or television communication.” This, too, provides extraordinary breadth for prosecutors seeking to press federal charges. “Wire” includes both phone and Internet connectivity – so unless you conduct all conversations in person or via mail (in which case the federal mail fraud statute would apply), if you are accused of fraud you will likely face charges for wire fraud as well.

Possible Defenses to Wire Fraud

As with all crimes, there are a number of potential defenses to federal wire fraud. This includes Constitutional defenses (such as unreasonable searches and seizures or violation of your Miranda rights), as well as defenses that apply based on the statutory language of the offense. With wire fraud, two of these defenses are: (i) lack of intent, and (ii) mistake of fact.

  • Lack of Intent – In order to convict you of wire fraud, the government must prove that you intended to commit a fraud using the phones, Internet, radio, or television. If the federal prosecutors trying your case cannot establish this specific intent, then your charges should be dismissed.
  • Mistake of Fact – The “mistake of fact” defense protects individuals who, due to a mistaken belief, did not know that they were involved in the commission of a crime. Proving the “mistake of fact” defense can be challenging and could have other implications for your case, so it is important to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney before making any decisions about your wire fraud defense.

Oberheiden, P.C. | Experienced Defense Lawyers for Federal Wire Fraud Charges

If you have been charged with wire fraud, the experienced criminal defense lawyers and former federal prosecutors at Oberheiden, P.C. are here to help. To speak with our team about defending your federal wire fraud charges, request a free case evaluation today.

Orange County 714-294-2000
Los Angeles 310-873-8140
Detroit 313-888-8807
Nationwide 888-452-2503