Wire fraud is a crime often shrouded in misunderstanding, and this can have serious implications for those accused. The confusion around this federal crime can be significant, making it critical to separate truth from fiction. In this guide, we will debunk some of the most common myths about wire fraud charges.
What is wire fraud?
Before delving into misconceptions, it’s essential to understand what wire fraud is. Wire fraud is a federal offense defined as the use of electronic communications (including telephone, email, internet, radio or television) to defraud someone else, usually for financial gain. The key elements of a wire fraud charge are a scheme to defraud, specific intent to defraud, and the use of wire, radio, or television communication to further the scheme.
Wire fraud covers a wide array of fraudulent activities such as phishing, telemarketing fraud, identity theft, and many more. It’s a serious crime that can result in hefty penalties, including fines and imprisonment.
1. Wire fraud only involves large sums of money
One common misconception about wire fraud is the belief that it exclusively involves large sums of money. However, the severity of wire fraud charges is not solely determined by the amount of money involved in the alleged fraud. Any deceptive action performed via wire communications, regardless of the involved sum, can be classified as wire fraud. Even small fraudulent transactions, if repeated over time, can lead to serious charges similar to a single large fraudulent act.
2. Only the primary perpetrator can be charged
Another prevalent misunderstanding is that only the person who planned and executed the fraudulent scheme can face wire fraud charges. In reality, anyone who knowingly participates in the scheme, directly or indirectly, can be implicated. If you knowingly facilitated the fraudulent scheme in any capacity, such as sending deceptive emails, concealing the scheme, or providing the means for the fraud (like a computer), you can also face charges.
3. Wire fraud is a minor offense
Many people perceive wire fraud as a minor or less severe offense because it’s typically non-violent and falls under “white-collar crimes”. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Wire fraud is a serious federal crime carrying substantial penalties, including large fines and imprisonment for up to 20 years. If the fraud scheme affects a financial institution or relates to a presidentially declared disaster, penalties can escalate significantly.
4. Wire fraud only happens online
Though wire fraud often involves online activities like email scams or internet fraud, it’s a misconception that wire fraud exclusively occurs online. Any form of electronic communication used for deceitful purposes can constitute wire fraud. This includes fraudulent activities conducted over phone calls, radio broadcasts, or even television.
5. Intent to defraud is easy to prove
While intent is a crucial element of wire fraud, proving it isn’t always straightforward. Defendants often believe that if they did not directly state their intent to defraud someone, they cannot be found guilty of wire fraud. However, prosecutors can use indirect evidence to prove intent, such as misleading statements or significant omissions. That said, a skilled defense attorney can often challenge such indirect evidence, complicating the prosecution’s task of proving intent.
Need legal help?
Wire fraud charges can be complex and difficult to navigate, mainly due to prevalent misconceptions about what they entail. Understanding what wire fraud is and dispelling common misconceptions is crucial when facing such charges. A seasoned criminal defense attorney can provide valuable advice tailored to your unique circumstances, ensuring the best possible outcome for your case.
Call us today at 800-834-6434 for a free case evaluation.