Florida continues to rank highly in the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) yearly rankings of rates of fraud by state. As a Federal organization, the FTC also keeps a close eye on fraud at that level as well.
At both levels, wire fraud is often used as a “catch-all” charge, as it has very broad criteria that can be easily proven by prosecutors. Generally, wire fraud is a crime of deception that involves the use of the wires to communicate, whether to operate the scheme or to carry it out. Federal wire fraud charges can be very serious, and if you are working with business associates across state lines it’s important to know the current law.
What is Wire Fraud?
Federal wire fraud laws are covered by 18 U.S. Code § 1343. Charges can be brought if you:
- devised or were intending to devise any scheme or artifice to defraud for obtaining money or property;
- by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises; and
- you used the wires for the purpose of executing such a scheme or artifice.
You can receive large fines (up to $250,000 for individuals, or up to $500,000 for organizations) or imprisonment up to 20 years under this section. If the victim is a financial institution such as a bank, you can face fines of up to $1 million and imprisonment for up to 30 years.
Wire fraud charges are straightforward for the Prosecution to bring, as conditions can be met if you have used the phone to deceive someone to obtain money, or communicated with a co-conspirator. It’s critical to remember that you can still be charged with federal wire fraud even if the scheme to defraud was not successful.
Examples of Wire Fraud Schemes
- Fake employment or job offers
- Ponzi and Pyramid schemes
- Offering a service where some part of the fee has to be paid in advance, but then the service is never delivered
- Fake tax payments due
- Procuring fake donations to charity
- Inheritance scams, where the victim has to pay a fee to receive their “inheritance”.
If these schemes are conducted online or over the phone, you may be charged with wire fraud. If you conduct a scheme such as this by post, mail fraud charges can also be brought.
Both Federal and state charges can be brought simultaneously if a scheme of fraud has been extensive. If this applies to you it is crucial that you seek legal advice as soon as possible.
Defending Against Wire Fraud Charges
While it’s easy for alleged victims of fraud, or those who want to report it, to do so through the FTC Report Fraud website, it’s not as simple to defend these possible criminal charges. You need a skilled federal defense lawyer like Ben Stechschulte on your side. If you have been accused of fraud in your business or personally, it is critically important that you establish a good defense.
Potential Defense Strategies
Normal business activities can sometimes appear fraudulent if a customer did not receive what they expected, or received services that were poor quality. In other cases, customers get confused about how a process works, or there is a miscommunication in some way.
However, for fraud charges it must be proven that you intended to defraud and deceive someone through the use of false or deceptive statements. Making a mistake or providing poor quality services or goods is not enough for a conviction of wire fraud.
If your case is brought to trial, potential defense approaches include:
- That there was no scheme to defraud – i.e. that your business or personal activities were legitimate.
- That you did not intend to deceive or defraud anyone or intend to obtain any money or property. Without the prosecution proving intent, you can’t be convicted.
- That no knowingly false statements or deceptive statements were made. If you make a false statement but you didn’t know it was false, we can argue that you were making those statements “in good faith”.
- That the false statements were not material. This means that even if knowingly false statements were made, that they were on a minor point or something unrelated to the person giving you money or property.
- That you did not use any of the stated methods to communicate. Even if you did use wire or telephone communication, it has to be proven that the communication was used for the scheme.
If you believe you have evidence that could support any of these defenses, make sure that you present it to your defense team to help you with your case.
Facing Federal Wire Fraud Charges
Call Stechschulte Nell Law in Tampa, FL for help. If you or a loved one has been charged with federal wire fraud or received a target of investigation letter, our top-rated lawyers can advise you.
Call our top-rated Tampa, FL law firm at (813) 280-1244 to speak to an experienced federal defense attorney or request a free case review.