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It is a federal crime to commit fraud using wire, television, radio or mail. Federal wire fraud laws apply to instances when a person uses a money-wiring system to deceive other people such as asking people to send money by wire for a non-existent product or service.
What Is Wire Fraud?
Wire fraud refers to fraud in which the offender utilizes a telecommunications medium such as the telephone, television or internet, to engage in an unlawful fraudulent scheme. Due to the fact that more specific offenses can go hand-in-hand with wire fraud, it can often be appended to other charges.
Wire fraud is typically categorized as a white collar crime alongside forgery, embezzlement and other forms of fraud.
If you are being investigated or if you are charged with the federal fraud by wire statute it is in your best interest to immediately consult an attorney well versed in this area of law.
Securities Fraud vs. Wire Fraud
Securities fraud, otherwise known as investment fraud or stock fraud, is a broad category of fraudulent criminal behavior that can include many different variations of the offense. Stock manipulation, the misrepresentation of financial advice to cause an incitement to buy or sell, insider trading and other similar acts fall under the general umbrella of securities fraud.
Securities fraud and wire fraud can occur simultaneously — and be charged concurrently — however. If, while engaging in fraudulent behavior related to the stock market, you also utilize any of the mentioned telecommunications mediums, you could face charges of wire fraud in addition to securities fraud.
Is Wire Fraud a Felony?
Wire fraud is considered to be a felony at the federal level, with severe penalties if you are convicted.
Wire fraud charges can either be categorized as a felony or as a misdemeanor at the state level. However, depending on both the jurisdiction as well as the severity of the alleged crime(s), the penalty might vary. In Florida, for example, wire fraud resulting in damages of less than $300 is considered to be a first degree misdemeanor, while a defrauded sum of $300 or more results in a felony charge ranging from third to first degree.
Who Investigates Wire Fraud?
Several different organizations might investigate various forms of wire fraud. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) takes on a great number of serious federal offenses concerning wire fraud, and the Department of Justice can also get involved in cases that involve the government or large financial institutions.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) might also assist with any relevant investigations or audits concerning suspected wire fraud, and in cases where the offense is to be pursued in state court, state law enforcement authorities may be involved in building a case.
What is the Penalty for Wire Fraud?
If you are charged with fraud by wire, you can face severe penalties including five years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine if the fraud charges do not involve federal securities or banks. However, if the fraud targeted victims like banking institutions, federal law allows even greater penalties.
At the federal level, you could face up to 30 years jail time in addition to fines of no more than $1 million. Penalties for wire fraud at the state level vary, although a broad range of punishments exist in proportion to the offense.
Most states provide a similar range of sentencing options to judges and juries in response to the charge of wire fraud, with misdemeanor charges resulting in three months to two years in jail as well as restitution and fines, and felony charges ranging from two to 30 years behind bars if you are found guilty.
Each instance or act of wire fraud constitutes another offense, and thus the potential for a greater number of charges. For example, if you send 50 emails out with the intent to defraud the recipients, you could face 50 separate charges for wire fraud.
Do I Need a Wire Fraud Defense Attorney?
If you are facing charges of wire fraud, it is important that you seek the services of an experienced criminal defense lawyer familiar with fraud cases. Retaining expert legal counsel can increase your chances of an acquittal rather than a conviction, or of negotiating the best possible deal.
How a Wire Fraud Attorney Can Help
If you have been accused of fraud by wire, you should contact an attorney in your area who is familiar with the federal and state laws that apply to this offense as soon as possible.
Your attorney can:
- Explain the fraud by wire law.
- Explain the intricate workings of the federal court system and its procedures.
- Serve as your go-between to investigators and the court.
- Negotiate with the prosecution.
You can tell your attorney in total confidentiality about the circumstances that lead to the investigation or arrest so your legal representative team can build a solid defense.
A wire fraud attorney will work with you to investigate the facts of your case to determine whether your activities amount to an unlawful scheme indicating your intent to defraud. Also, since every alleged incident of fraud can be charged as a separate count, you may have been overcharged, and an attorney can review the number of counts and file motions with the court or negotiate with the prosecutor to have the charges reduced or dismissed.
Wire fraud is a serious offense so it is important to search for an experienced attorney with a good understanding of the laws regarding wire fraud. If convicted, or if you decide to make a plea bargain, you are facing significant time in prison and hefty fines. Your lawyer, in bringing mitigating evidence on your behalf, may be able to convince the government to impose lesser penalties.