Wire fraud falls within the category of criminal offenses referred to as “white collar” crimes. These are non-violent, financially motivated crimes that often involve an element of deception in the commission of the crime. Wire fraud can be charged by the federal and/or state governments, both of which may impose serious penalties, including a lengthy prison sentence, for a conviction.
If you have been charged with wire fraud, or you believe you are being investigated for wire fraud, you need to take immediate steps to protect yourself and your future. An experienced Orlando wire fraud attorney at Jonathan Rose P.A. can make sure your rights are protected throughout a wire fraud investigation as well as aggressively defend you if you are charged with wire fraud in a state or federal prosecution.
What Is Wire Fraud?
Wire fraud involves the use of an interstate communications device, such as a computer, television, or telephone, as a part of a scheme to defraud someone of money, property, or anything else of value. Both U.S. federal law and Florida state law make wire fraud a crime. The “Nigerian prince” scam is a well-known example of a wire fraud scheme. The perpetrator sends an email claiming to be a Nigerian prince who cannot access his vast fortune (usually because he has been “exiled”) held in a Nigerian bank. The target of the scam is asked to “hold” his fortune in return for a significant monetary “reward.” The true objective is to get the target to give out financial information that is then used to access and steal the target’s money. Variations of this scheme are carried out every day and result in the loss of millions of dollars every year.
However, wire fraud need not be even that complex. Any fraud that utilizes electronic communication in the conduct or concealment of the crime – whether email, internet, fax, phone, or text communication – could be prosecuted as wire fraud.
What Are the Federal Wire Fraud Laws?
At the federal level, the criminal offense of wire fraud is governed by 18 U.S.C. 1343 which requires the following four elements:
- That the defendant voluntarily and intentionally devised or participated in a scheme to defraud another out of money or something of value
- That the defendant did so with the intent to defraud
- That it was reasonably foreseeable that interstate wire communications would be used
- That interstate wire communications were in fact used
What Are the Florida Wire Fraud Laws?
In the State of Florida, Section 817.034 of the Florida Statutes, commonly known as “the Florida Communications Fraud Act,” governs the crime of communications (wire) fraud. That statute defines communication fraud as follows:
“Any person who engages in a scheme to defraud and, in furtherance of that scheme, communicates with any person with intent to obtain property from that person is guilty, for each such act of communication, of communications fraud.”
What Are the Penalties for a Federal Wire Fraud Conviction?
If convicted of wire fraud in a federal and/or state prosecution, you face serious potential consequences. Wire fraud is charged as a Class C felony by the U.S. federal government. A conviction for wire fraud in federal court carries up to 20 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $250,000 for an individual or up to $500,000 for organizations. If the wire fraud scheme involves a presidentially declared disaster or a federal financial institution the penalty can be increased to 30 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $1,000,000.
What Are the Penalties for a Wire Fraud Conviction in the State of Florida?
In the State of Florida, the amount of money or property involved determines the level of the offense charged for wire fraud and the corresponding potential penalties. If the value of the property obtained or endeavored to be obtained by the communication is valued at:
- Less than $300 the crime is charged as a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to one year and/or a fine of up to $1,000.
- $300 – $19,999 the crime is charged as a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison and/or a fine of up to $5,000.
- $20,000 – $49,999 the crime is charged as a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
- More than $50,000 – the crime is charged as a first-degree felony punishable by up to 30 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
What Are Some Common Defenses to Allegations of Wire Fraud?
Because every prosecution involving allegations of wire fraud is based on a unique set of facts and circumstances, only an experienced Orlando wire fraud attorney can review your situation and discuss what defenses might apply; however, some common defenses used in a wire fraud prosecution include:
- Lack of intent to commit fraud. The prosecution must prove that you intended to commit wire fraud to secure a conviction. Lack of intent, therefore, is a defense. For example, if you worked for a company that was engaged in wire fraud, but you were not privy to the details of the fraudulent scheme nor were you aware that you were part of a fraudulent scheme, your attorney may focus on your lack of intent to commit fraud as a defense.
- Reasonable belief that the communication was true. Wire fraud typically involves a false or misleading statement (written or verbal). If you believed that statement was true at the time you made it, it can be used as a defense against allegations of wire fraud. Claiming a 90 percent success rate in an email advertisement for a credit repair service, for instance, when the actual success rate was only 50 percent, would not be fraud if you reasonably believed the statement to be true.
- “Puffery.” The term “puffery” is used to refer to the exaggerated claims often made in advertising or by salespeople. If the statement was obvious “puffery” it can be a defense against allegations of wire fraud.
- Illegal search and seizure. Evidence seized by the state or federal government during an unlawful search may be inadmissible at trial. A wire fraud prosecution may include electronic records obtained without a valid search warrant. If so, your attorney may be able to prevent those records from being used against you.
Contact an Experienced Orlando Wire Fraud Attorney
When your freedom and your future are potentially at stake, you need an experienced Orlando wire fraud attorney on your side. Attorney Jonathan Rose has extensive experience handling wire fraud cases in both state and federal courts. Moreover, he knows how to think like the prosecution because he was once a prosecutor himself. If you have been charged with wire fraud, or you believe you are part of a wire fraud investigation, do not hesitate to contact Orlando wire fraud attorney Jonathan Rose P.A today by calling 407-894-4555 or filling out our online contact form.