Wire fraud has several forms as a federal crime, from internet to telemarketing schemes. With so many opportunities available in our electronic world, wire fraud has become a real problematic issue for law enforcement – and that is why the offense is now being more thoroughly investigated and prosecuted at both the state and federal level.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton recently announced that his office, with help from the Federal Trade Commission, shut down a large criminal telefunding operation. The operation made deceptive calls to raise money for a fake charity. They defrauded people out of more than $110 million before being shut down by the state and federal government.
This case illustrates how lucrative and sophisticated wire fraud can be. There’s good reason to be for the consumer to be vigilant and why no one should get involved in this criminal activity.
Here’s what you need to know about wire fraud and the penalties you may face if convicted.
What Is Wire Fraud?
The federal crime of wire fraud occurs when perpetrators defraud other parties or an individual person via electronic communications through a masterminded plot. It can be carried out using signs, signals, pictures, or sounds transmitted through any form of wire, such as radio, internet, telephone, television, or even a fax machine.
In order to be convicted of wire fraud, the prosecution must prove several elements in court.
These elements can vary from circuit to circuit, but in general, they include:
- Scheme created to commit fraud
- Intent to commit fraud
- The use of wire to further the scheme, i.e. phone or internet
Penalties for Wire Fraud in TX and Beyond
If you are found guilty of wire fraud in federal court, you can receive severe penalties, like the following:
- Up to 20 years in prison
- Fines for individuals up to $250,000
- Fines for organizations up to $500,000
Additional penalties may also be administered under certain circumstances.
For example, if the wire fraud was related to a major disaster declared by the federal government, or if it involves a financial institution, the prison sentence may increase to 30 years, with fines up to $1 million.
It should be noted that penalties apply per count. Usually, each email, phone call, or electronic communication constitutes its own count.
So, if someone makes three phone calls, and later they are convicted of wire fraud in connection with the calls, each count would merit its own penalty. That’s an accumulated 60 years in prison and as much as $750,000 in fines.
Charges Related to Wire Fraud
Congress passed wire fraud statutes in the 1950s to expand mail fraud laws beyond the mail system. Mail fraud and wire fraud have many characteristics in common, but they are still different charges.
However, it’s not unusual to see mail fraud in conjunction with wire fraud charges. Other charges often connected to wire fraud cases include:
- Securities fraud
- Internet fraud
- Conspiracy or attempt to commit wire fraud
Wire fraud cases might seem insurmountable, but there are defenses against these types of offenses. Start your defense plan by understanding your rights and the case the government has built against you.