Romance offers many avenues in which to travel, but federal prison is not normally considered one of them. Eleven defendants in Texas learned recently that federal prison is where theymay be headed because of their involvement in a romance scam.
The defendants are charged with several federal crimes, including conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to launder money. They are accused of luring elderly people through dating sites and scamming them for money.
How much legal jeopardy can these individuals face for the charged offenses, sometimes known as catfishing?
Quite a lot, it turns out.
Here iss what you need to know about federal wire fraud and laundering money and the penalties that these scammers, and those like them, can face.
Conspiracy: What Is It?
Under the law, conspiracy is when two or more people agree to commit a crime at some point. At least one of those people must take an action to further the crime.
The penalty for conspiracy is the same as the underlying crime that was planned to be committed. Under the eyes of the law, it’s essentially as if the defendants have perpetrated the crime, not simply planned it.
Federal Wire Fraud
Wire fraud is a crime that is perpetrated through the use of sounds, pictures, signs, signals, or writings that are transmitted over form of wire such as radio, fax, telephone, television, or internet.
There are elements of wire fraud that the prosecution must prove in order to secure a conviction of the crime. These elements include:
- There was a scheme to commit wire fraud
- There was intent to commit wire fraud
- A wire was used in furtherance of the scheme
Penalties for Wire Fraud
If you are found guilty of wire fraud or conspiracy to commit wire fraud in federal court, then each instance in which you used a wire in a scheme is considered one count. This is important to understand.
For federal wire fraud charges, a person can be sentenced to up to 20 years in federal prison. They can also be fined up to $250,000 as an individual. If an organization is found guilty, then the fine goes up to $500,000. Remember, this is applicable for each instance of wire fraud for which a person or organization is found guilty.
Furthermore, if there’s a scheme that seeks to defraud a federal disaster or federal financial institution, the penalties can increase to up to 30 years in prison and fines of $1 million.
Money laundering occurs when someone uses money obtained through criminal activities in financial transactions. The purpose of these transactions is usually to take money that someone acquired illegally and make it appear as if the earnings were legitimate. Basically, they’re taking “dirty” money and making it appear “clean”, hence the term laundering.
It is also illegal to enter into an agreement to commit this offense, even if the potential perpetrators do not followed through on the plan – which is a conspiracy to commit money laundering. The government has the burden to prove in court that someone made an agreement with one or more people to commit money laundering – and that the person accused of the crime wanted to enter into this agreement.
Penalties for Money Laundering
If a person is found guilty in federal court of money laundering, they can face up to 20 years in federal prison. The exact time in prison will depend on the amount of money involved in the crime.