Federal Wire Fraud
Wire fraud is a federal offense with broad reach and potentially serious consequences. Defending against charges of wire fraud can be challenging. Defeating a wire fraud charge will often involve negating one of the essential elements of the crime. Defendants charged with wire fraud will need to act quickly to secure the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney who will vigorously defend their legal rights. Federal prosecutors are some of the toughest in the nation and it will take an equally skilled defense attorney to go up against these grave charges.
At the Law Offices of David L. Freidberg, our Chicago criminal defense lawyers understand that if you have been charged with the federal offense of wire fraud, your freedom and future are at stake. Our firm will help you to mount a strong defense against wire fraud charges. With our assistance, you may be able to achieve dismissal of the charges, a not guilty verdict at trial, or a favorable plea deal that will allow you to move on with your life.Wire Fraud Defined
The federal crime of wire fraud is set out in 18 U.S.C. 1343. Under the statute, it is illegal for any individual to intentionally or voluntarily use an interstate communications device, including a telephone, radio, or television, as part of any scheme to defraud another of property or anything of value. The elements of wire fraud can further be defined as follows:
- Intent: Wire fraud cannot be committed accidently. Federal prosecutors must prove that you, as the defendant, acted with intent to fraudulently deprive someone of property.
- Scheme to defraud: Prosecutors must prove that you intentionally devised or participated in a scheme to defraud another of property. A scheme to defraud may involve any plan to defraud that uses a promise, deception, misrepresentation, or another falsehood with the intent to deprive another of funds or property.
- Use of a wire communications device: To convict an individual of wire fraud, the prosecutor must prove the defendant used some type of interstate communications device, which could include: a cellphone or landline, fax machine, email, or Internet, to transmit messages in furtherance of your scheme to defraud.
It is important to note that a conviction for wire fraud does not require evidence that you actually deprived someone of their property or funds. Attempts to commit wire fraud can result in conviction even if you never profited from the scheme to defraud. Even further, each act of wire fraud will constitute a separate offense. For instance, if you sent five emails to victims as part of a scheme, you committed five separate acts of wire fraud. Due to the breadth of the offense, wire fraud is often charged in addition to other, more serious offenses when prosecutors fear they may not have enough evidence to successfully convict the defendant of the primary crime.Penalties for Wire Fraud
Under 18 U.S.C. 1343, if you are convicted of wire fraud, you can be sentenced to not more than 20 years in prison or fined, or both. If you are convicted of multiple counts of wire fraud or have prior convictions, you could face decades in prison. Wire fraud schemes that impact financial institutions or related to a declared disaster, potential penalties include up to 30 years in prison and fines of $1,000,000.Defenses Against Wire Fraud
While the penalties for wire fraud are severe, there are several viable defenses against a federal charge of wire fraud. Some of the most common defenses against wire fraud include:
- Good faith: The good faith defense is perhaps the most common defense against wire fraud. A good faith defense requires a showing that you lacked the requisite intent to defraud. Evidence of good faith could involve proof that you relied on the advice of an attorney, a lack of financial motive, compliance with state laws, or refunds to some customers.
- Puffing: A defendant may argue that any representations were mere puffing and not actual fraud. Salespeople will often use exaggerations or flattery in an effort to attract customers. This tactic is known as puffery, and it is not considered illegal. Distinguishing between puffery and actual fraud can be a difficult task as the distinction is one of degree. A solid defense could involve showing that any misrepresentation made was not calculated to deceive a person of ordinary skill.
- Constructive fraud: Constructive fraud is not intentional, but rather occurs as a result of reckless business practices. Constructive fraud does not constitute actual fraud, as required to convict someone of wire fraud. This scenario commonly arises when the defendant sits on a corporate board that has failed to disclose some material facts. An experienced federal defense lawyer will investigate the circumstances surrounding your charge to uncover whether a defense of constructive fraud may apply.
- Statute of limitations: If your alleged act of fraud occurred several years ago, you could potentially argue that the charge is time barred under the statute of limitations. The federal statute of limitations on wire fraud will generally be five years, with some exceptions. The statute of limitations starts to run from your last use of wires in furtherance of the scheme to defraud.
Wire fraud is a serious federal offense that could result in several years in federal prison, along with fines and potentially restitution. If you are facing this serious charge or being investigated for fraud by the feds, it is critical that you act quickly to obtain the legal representation you need. For over 20 years, Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney David L. Freidberg has assisted clients facing federal charges, including wire fraud and other fraud offenses. Attorney David L. Freidberg understands the seriousness of the charges you face and will zealously fight to mount your strongest defense possible under the law. Call the Law Offices of David L. Freidberg, P.C., today at (312) 560-7100 or contact us online to schedule your free consultation.