What Constitutes the Crime of Federal Wire Fraud?: Federal Attorney Talks Wire Fraud Penalties

the image displays a massive wire fraud scheme represented on a number of computer screens in a Fort Lauderdale home officeWhat is wire fraud?

Federal wire fraud is a scheme used by an individual to defraud another person of property or items of value, using communication devices or social networking applications. 


Examples of Federal Wire Fraud

  • Using a cellphone to offer someone land that is not owned in exchange for money.
  • Using emails, text messages, WhatsApp, or social media to scheme.
  • Phishing Emails
  • Telemarketing Schemes.

Elements of a Federal Wire Fraud Crime

Federal wire fraud involves intending to scheme or defraud for obtaining money or property by means of false pretenses or promises transmitted by wire, radio, or television and/or any such writings, signs, signals, as defined by Federal Law in 18 U.S. Code § 1343


Wire fraud has four legal elements: 

  1. You created or participated in a scheme to defraud someone out of money and/or property. 
  2. You had intentions to defraud and commit the crime. 
  3. You must have used wire communications or an interstate communication device, such as a phone, computer, or fax machine that will send and receive messages across state borders. 
  4. Lastly, there must be a reason that proves that “the use of interstate communications would be a necessary part of the fraudulent scheme” 

Federal Wire Fraud Statutes

941. 18 U.S.C. 1343—Elements of Wire Fraud

In citation of 941 of the United States code under section 1343, it is stated that the elements of wire fraud are identical to “those of the mail fraud statute, but require the use of an interstate telephone call or electronic communication made in furtherance of the scheme” (The United States Department of Justice Archives, n.d.). 

940. 18 U.S.C. Section 1341—Elements of Mail Fraud

The two main elements in mail fraud are having a plan with intent to scheme and defraud, and using mail to commit the present crime (The United States Department of Justice Archives, n.d.). Federal mail Fraud is often considered a Federal White Collar Crime.


Intent: A Necessary Piece to a Federal Wire Fraud Conviction

To be considered a participant of federal wire fraud, you must have known about the act, and your intent must be in obtaining money.

If the defendant lacks “specific intent” but shows a lack of indifference, then he or she may still be charged. One example includes a perpetrator using truthful words to describe the benefits of a specific item or deal, but they lack truth to what their real objective is in their business negotiation.


Puffing: Occasionally a Factor in a Federal Wire Fraud Crime

Typically used in scams, puffing is defined as the use of exaggeration of a product, property, or business to persuade buyers into a promotional deal. 

Sellers of an item with exaggerated qualities are not held accountable, unless the facts of the item are falsely misrepresented (Theoharris, 2021). If a person exclaimed that an item is the “best thing they’ve owned for years'' then they will not be liable. If a seller states that an item “will be delivered in brand new condition within seven months,” however, and the item is never received with no responses from the buyer, the seller will be held accountable. 


Penalties for Federal Wire Fraud Crimes if Convicted

Federal wire fraud falls under an umbrella of several crimes. It can be considered federal mail fraud and/or a federal internet crime, which is also called cybercrimes.  With one count of wire fraud, the defendant can be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison with additional fines of $250,000 for a single individual and possibly $500,000 in fines if the crime was part of a collective organization.

Since wire fraud is a federal crime, the punishment is significant. If a wire fraud scheme is based upon a disaster that was presidentially declared or a federal financial institution, the penalty can be increased by an additional 10 years for a total of 30 years in federal prison with a $1 million in fines if convicted. 

Free Federal Wire Fraud Defense Strategy Session in South Florida  

If you’re facing federal wire fraud charges, we know how to protect your rights and provide you with a personalized and aggressive defense. You can sleep better at night knowing we are on your side. 


We offer FREE consultations (what we call strategy sessions) so you know how we’ll work to get the best possible result on your case for you.


Give us a call today to schedule your free strategy session: