Federal Wire Fraud Lawyer
The crime of wire fraud is a federal offense that can result in significant prison time and harsh fines. Wire fraud involves any scheme to defraud another person through the use of electronic communication. Historically, people associate the crime of wire fraud with telephonic communications, but the truth is that someone can commit wire fraud through the use of the internet, radio, television, and even a fax machine. Practically any dishonest dealing can turn into a federal offense by use of email.
Federal agents have significant resources at their disposal to investigate and prosecute suspected wire fraud. This is just one of the reasons why it is so important that if you have been charged with wire fraud, you need to hire an experienced, skilled federal criminal defense attorney to represent your interests. Do not speak with federal agents until you have consulted a federal criminal defense attorney. You may have a civil or business lawyer that you trust. That lawyer may have your best interest at heart, but they probably just do not understand how things can go catastrophically wrong while speaking to federal agents. Throughout Dallas-Fort Worth, and the rest of the state, business planning and litigation attorneys contact Cody Cofer to consult on possible criminal liability.
What is Wire Fraud?
Put simply, wire fraud is a form of fraud. Fraud happens when someone intentionally misrepresents, conceals, or omits information that results in harm. In most fraud cases, the harm that results is monetary loss. Wire fraud involves the use of electronic communications in order to facilitate a fraudulent scheme or action.
What Are The Elements of Federal Wire Fraud?
In order to be found guilty of wire fraud, a prosecutor must be able to show, beyond a reasonable doubt, that a defendant is guilty of all of the elements of a wire fraud charge. Federal law describes the elements of a wire fraud infraction:
- A scheme to commit fraud – To be found guilty of wire fraud, it must be shown that a defendant was part of a scheme to defraud a person or party. This means that there was a deliberate plan that was carried out to deprive a person or party of something of value. While you do not have to be the mastermind behind a fraudulent scheme in order to be found guilty of wire fraud, you must’ve had some role in an overall plan or scheme.
- Specific intent to commit fraud – It is important to understand that you cannot accidentally commit wire fraud. In order to be found guilty of wire fraud, it must be shown that you intended to defraud a person or party. It is not enough that you were part of a scheme to defraud, it must be proven that you acted intentionally.
Still, you can be found guilty of wire fraud even if the scheme did not succeed. All that is required under the law to satisfy this element is that you intended to defraud a person or party (e.g., committing the act through false or fraudulent pretenses). However, it is important to note that under some circumstances, you may be found guilty of wire fraud if it can be shown that you acted with reckless indifference. An example of reckless indifference would involve, for example, making a claim about an investment to potential investors that you never verified or had any factual basis to make.
- The use of wire, radio, or television communications – As you may have guessed, to be convicted of wire fraud, you must have used some form of electronic communication in order to further a fraudulent scheme. The communication accomplished by wire does not have to play a vital role in the fraudulent scheme. It only needs to be made in furtherance of the overall plan. This means that merely planning the scheme via email or over the phone is enough to satisfy this element. The term “wire fraud” has been known to include just about any form of electronic communication, including radio, television, email, instant messaging, text messaging, social media, and fax machines.
Federal Wire Fraud Penalties
Wire fraud is a serious criminal offense that can result in severe penalties. In addition to the criminal sanctions you may face, a wire fraud conviction can result in loss of employment and a permanent criminal record. If you have been charged with wire fraud, it is essential that you speak to a federal criminal defense attorney immediately to better ensure that your rights remain protected. Some of the possible penalties under the federal wire fraud statute include:
- Up to 20 years in federal prison
- A fine of up to $250,000 for individuals
- A fine of up to $500,000 for organizations
There are additional penalties for wire fraud committed in connection with a federal financial or a presidentially declared disaster. Those increased penalties are:
- A fine of up to $1,000,000
- Up to 30 years in federal prison
State Fraud Laws
Federal wire fraud is a federal criminal offense that is handled in federal court. However, if you have been charged with federal wire fraud, you may also face additional state fraud charges connected to the same scheme or plan. If this happens, you could experience added penalties if you are convicted of state fraud charges in addition to the risk of conviction under federal law.
As mentioned, being convicted of wire fraud could cause you to experience additional consequences outside of the federal criminal justice system. For example, being convicted of a federal offense like wire fraud could cause you to lose your job, make it difficult to find employment, and make it difficult for you to secure financing or obtain housing. It is also important to understand that a wire fraud conviction will go on your criminal record, which will label you as a convicted felon for life. Depending on where you live, this could affect your ability to vote, purchase or possess a firearm, and obtain or maintain a security clearance.
Examples Of Wire Fraud
A number of wire fraud cases involve attempts to defraud corporations, non-profit organizations, banks, and insurance companies. But wire fraud can also involve schemes to defraud individuals, small businesses, and even the U.S. government. Here are a few of the more common examples of wire fraud:
- Phishing scams – These online scams are incredibly commonplace, and odds are, if you check your spam or junk email folder, you are bound to discover at least one email that is likely a phishing scam. Phishing scams involve a scammer sending an email to consumers that appears to be from a legitimate source, such as a bank or well-known e-retailer, for example. The email asks a consumer for personal information such as a Social Security number, bank account number, or date of birth. The fraudster then uses that information to open new accounts in the consumer’s name or to steal out of existing accounts.
- Telemarketing scams – Increasing in frequency, telemarketing scams have made a resurgence of late and often target the elderly and infirm. This type of scam involves a scammer making a phone call to a victim and then claiming to be from a legitimate business such as Netflix, for example. The scammer will then claim that there is a problem with the victim’s account and will request personal information or, in some instances, demand payment from the victim to prevent service interruption. Because the scammer has no connection to the legitimate business, they essentially steal the victim’s information and/or money through the fraudulent scheme.
- Romance scams – Other common forms of wire fraud that often target the elderly or recently divorced are romance scams. This scam type involves a scammer joining a dating website and pretending to be interested in forming a romantic relationship with a victim. The scammer will create a fake dating profile with pictures stolen from an actual person. Over time, the scammer will cultivate a purely online relationship and gain the trust of the victim. Once the victim begins to trust the scammer, they will begin requesting money from the victim. Romance scams are a common form of wire fraud and often go unreported due to the embarrassment, heartache, and shame associated with such loss.
Defenses To Federal Wire Fraud
As with any criminal matter, there are a number of possible defenses to a federal wire fraud charge. It is important to understand that if you have been charged with wire fraud, you are not required to present a defense but may choose to do so if you so desire. You’ll want to work with a criminal defense attorney to aggressively pursue a defense if you want a shot at avoiding severe conviction-related consequences. Some potential defenses to a federal wire fraud charge include:
- Lack of knowledge – As explained, you cannot be found guilty of wire fraud by accident. This means that you must be aware of the fraudulent scheme or plan at issue in order to be convicted of wire fraud. If you simply send out correspondence at the request of your boss, with no knowledge that it contained fraudulent information, you cannot rightfully be found guilty of federal wire fraud.
- Lack of intent – Generally speaking, a wire fraud conviction requires specific intent to defraud a person or party. This means that it must be shown that you intended to commit fraud through the use of electronic communication. Sending out a communication accidentally or including information in the communication by mistake will not satisfy this intent requirement.
- No electronic communication – While you may be found guilty of general fraud, you cannot be convicted of wire fraud unless you used a form of electronic communication in furtherance of the scheme. Having a conversation in person about a potential scheme is not wire fraud. Similarly, sending a letter through the mail is not wire fraud, although you may be charged with mail fraud if the letter is sent in furtherance of a scheme to defraud.
Frequently Asked Questions
Will I Go To Jail For Wire Fraud?
While jail time is a possibility if you are convicted of wire fraud, the specific sentence you could receive will vary depending on the facts of your case, your prior criminal history, and the scope of your involvement in the fraudulent scheme. Ultimately, it will be the judge hearing your case who will make a decision on your punishment, but your lawyer will have an opportunity to make arguments on your behalf regarding sentencing.
Do I Need A Lawyer If I’m Charged With Wire Fraud?
If you have been charged with wire fraud, it is highly recommended that you hire an experienced federal criminal defense attorney to represent your interests. Because wire fraud is a federal offense, federal prosecutors will try the case against you in federal court. These attorneys are known to be some of the most skilled prosecutors in the country and have access to the necessary resources to present a case effectively. Without a lawyer, you’ll leave yourself vulnerable to an excessive or unjust sentence that could result in you spending as much as 30 years in prison.
Will I Have A Criminal Record If I’m Convicted Of Wire Fraud?
Yes. If you are convicted of federal wire, this conviction will go on your permanent criminal record. Because of this, you will also be considered a convicted felon, which can affect your ability to own a firearm in certain states. Many employers and landlords require a criminal background check for new employees. As a result, being a convicted felon could also have a negative effect on your ability to find employment and to obtain housing. Most federal criminal offenses cannot be expunged, so it is unlikely you will ever have the conviction removed from your record.
Hire an Experienced Dallas-Fort Worth Federal Wire Fraud Defense Attorney Today
Federal wire fraud charges are most serious. If you have been charged with this crime, you need to secure skilled representation immediately. Not every attorney has the experience and the ability to stand up to federal prosecutors concerning an alleged federal crime. But, the wire fraud lawyers at Cofer Luster have over 20 years of combined experience defending clients charged with federal crimes and have handled hundreds of cases. If you have been charged with federal wire fraud, the stakes are too high for you to take a chance on “just any” attorney. Reach out to our skilled and experienced legal team today by calling (682) 777-3336 or by contacting us online to learn about how we can help. We look forward to hearing from you.