What behaviors and actions constitute criminal wire fraud?

| Jul 7, 2021 | Criminal Defense |

Criminal wire fraud has a California state definition as well as a federal definition. In both cases, wire fraud occurs when someone uses any form of telecommunications devices to obtain goods, services, money or anything else of monetary value under false pretenses. Although wire fraud is considered a white-collar crime, fines and prison terms on both the federal and state levels are strict.

What is the federal definition of wire fraud?

Per 941.18 U.S. Code 1343, there are four prongs that must be met for a defendant to be guilty of wire fraud. These include:

  • • Intent to defraud others of money
  • • Creation of or participation in a scheme with clear intent to defraud
  • • Reasonable conclusion that interstate wire communications would be used in said scheme
  • • Actual utilization of interstate wires to commit fraud

If one or more of these prongs isn’t met, the defendant shouldn’t be found guilty of wire fraud. If the defendant is found guilty of wire fraud, he or she may be sentenced to up to 20 years of imprisonment and up to a $250,000 fine; this increases to $500,000 if an organization, rather than an individual, is convicted.

What is California’s definition of wire fraud?

California Penal Code section 434 defines fraud as theft by “deceit or trick.” If a defendant is found guilty, the crime is punishable as larceny. Unlike the federal equivalent, California state law focuses on whether anything was actually stolen and less on intent.

When is it time to contact a lawyer?

Even though wire fraud isn’t a violent offense, being found guilty could permanently alter a person’s life. Retaining a lawyer before or after being formally indicted for wire fraud may help a defendant prepare a defense and be better equipped for a potential trial.