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Wire Fraud and the Internet

Wire Fraud in Detail, the Government's Burden, and Penalties of a Conviction (continued)

With the dawn of the Internet age, the scope of the crime has broadened and an instance relating to wire fraud was argued in the case of the US v. Kieffer (Appeal in PDF format)
(Click here to go directly to these pages).

Wire Fraud, can be charged as a single prosecution but is often an added charge in conjunction with other fraudulent uses of media crimes such as bank fraud, and mail fraud. When committed online, Internet fraud and email fraud may also be associated with it.

All of these types of frauds frequently connect with other offenses some of which are credit card fraud, identity theft, securities fraud, false representation scams and making false statements to federal agents or other representatives of the government.

Prosecutors may use the charge of wire fraud when they don't have enough clear evidence to prove other, associated felonies as long as they can prove that a device meeting the criteria of wire fraud was used in the commission of the central charge.

The penalties for wire fraud or any of the associated above-mentioned offenses can be harsh, especially in an instance where a financial institution is involved.

Convictions for attempted wire fraud as well as a conviction for conspiracy to commit wire fraud carry the same penalties as a successful action. If convicted, the government makes no distinction between an unsuccessful attempt and an effective crime.

The penalty for a conviction of wire fraud can be up to twenty years of imprisonment with fines up to $250,000.00 for each occurrence. However, if a financial institution is defrauded or involved, the sentence is heightened substantially. In cases dealing with banks or other financial institutions, the penalty can be up to thirty years in federal prison and a fine of up to $1,000,000.00 may be imposed.  

Sentencing for a successful conviction can result with imprisonment in a federal facility in the case of a financial institution, or a local or state facility for other convictions.

In order for the government to obtain a conviction for wire fraud they must prove that a scheme to defraud illegally by the gathering of personal information, or procurement of property or money, otherwise the attempt to damage another person or group of individuals by fraudulent pretenses existed and there was intent to do so; false representations were made and the act was conducted by way of the transmission by wire, radio, or television communication or any modern technological apparatuses mentioned above in interstate or foreign commerce. All of the above particulars must be met and proved beyond a reasonable doubt.  

Many believe that the wire fraud statute will ultimately become a comprehensive substitute for a charge of mail fraud due to the recent lessening of the usage of regular mail.

Because the statute does not define a scheme to defraud, in the nonexistence of a detailed definition, nearly any swindle involving falsification could be prosecuted under Title18 of the US Code. Secondly, the way the statute is worded regarding transmission by wire, radio, or television makes it expansive enough that it can apply to virtually all new technologies. These two points make it particularly significant to federal prosecutors.

The Justice Department (DOJ) is gradually increasing the usage of wire fraud prosecutions in matters of money laundering cases, telemarketing fraud and RICO cases. Once wire fraud is added to the fundamental charge, the range of sentencing for a conviction will usually surpass the prison term obtainable for the original specified offense.

Because monies are usually transmitted to suspect's accounts by wire transfer, wire fraud charges are frequently used in mortgage fraud cases in this day and age. These transfers by wire can alert federal authorities investigating a case and the trail left by the keeping of financial and business records simplifies proving the government's case.

To read a recent article posted on my blog about a wire fraud prosecution click here.