A wire fraud charge can have serious consequences. Wire fraud is a federal crime, and if you are convicted you could be sentenced with up to 20 years in a federal prison. These charges are pursued by experienced federal prosecutors who have the resources to build a strong case. Don’t face them alone. You need a Los Angeles wire fraud lawyer.
At the Simmrin Law Group, our federal crimes lawyers have dedicated their careers to fighting for the rights of people who have been accused of wire fraud and other serious crimes. We work hard to get the best possible result for you, and we have a history of helping our clients avoid prison or walk away innocent of all charges. Let us give you a free consultation. Fill out the form to the right or call us at 310-997-4688 and get your free consultation today.
What is Wire Fraud?
Wire fraud is any kind of fraud scheme that uses wire, television or radio communications. Wire fraud also includes telephone communications, email and certain types of internet fraud.
Before you can be found guilty of wire fraud, a prosecutor must prove three things:
- You made a “scheme,” or plan, to commit fraud.
- You used wire, radio or television communications to carry out the scheme.
- You had a specific intent to commit fraud. In other words, you knew you would be taking advantage of people.
Fraud is a crime under both state and federal laws, but the exact definition may depend on the law you are being charged under. The federal wire fraud law defines “fraud” as:
- Knowingly or recklessly…
- Making a “material misrepresentation”…
- …To deprive someone else of something that has value (such as money).
Each part of this definition has its own legal meaning:
- A misrepresentation is another word for a lie. But you can also make a misrepresentation if you deceive someone by leaving out important information.
- The misrepresentation must be “material.” This means the false information must have been important enough to influence someone’s decision. A misrepresentation of a trivial fact that doesn’t matter will not count as wire fraud.
- Knowingly or recklessly means you knew you weren’t telling the truth—or you just didn’t care whether your statement was true or false. So, a person who commits wire fraud might have intentionally lied, or might have made things up without checking to see if they were true.
Most wire fraud cases involve using misrepresentations to get money or property, but some involve something known as “honest services fraud.” This is when someone abuses a position of trust by committing bribery or accepting kickbacks. A kickback is when someone gets a benefit they should not be getting, such as when company executives or politicians award contracts to companies that will secretly give them money in return.
Why am I being charged under federal law instead of California law?
Some types of fraud are state law crimes and others are federal crimes. This is because the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution gives the federal government the right to regulate matters affecting commerce across state lines. Since wire communications often are conducted between people in different states, wire fraud is a federal crime prosecuted by attorneys from the U.S. Department of Justice.
What if I didn’t actually defraud anyone or take any money?
The intent to defraud is what matters. Even if you never actually took any money from anyone, or no one believed the fraud, you can still be convicted. This is one reason it is important to take a wire fraud charge seriously and get good legal advice as soon as possible.
What kinds of communications are included in wire fraud?
The crime of “wire fraud” dates to the time when communications happened by telegraph, radio and telephone. But it now includes many forms of electronic communications as well as communications that travel over physical wires. Wire fraud can include communications through:
- Telephone calls
- Wire transfers of money
Using one of these methods of communication does not have to be the centerpiece of a fraud scheme in order for it to count as wire fraud. If the communication was used to advance the fraud in any way, it counts. For example, a wire fraud could be planned by email but carried out in person.
What defenses can I use against a wire fraud charge?
If you are charged with wire fraud, your lawyer will present defenses to attack the prosecution’s case. Some of the main defenses to a wire fraud charge include:
- Mistake of fact. Wire fraud requires that you made a “misrepresentation,” so one defense to the charge is that you did not mean to lie. You simply made a mistake. You might have a “mistake of fact” if the misrepresentation involved something complex that you did not fully understand or if you believed your statement was true.
- No intent. Because wire fraud is based on your intent to carry out a fraud, you cannot be convicted if you didn’t mean to deceive anyone. It can be hard for the prosecution to prove intent because it is difficult to show what another person was thinking. Lack of intent can be an especially powerful defense if you are accused of wire fraud because of something your employer told you to do.
What are the penalties for wire fraud?
If you are convicted of wire fraud, the penalties include:
- Up to 20 years in federal prison in most cases
- Up to 30 years in federal prison if the fraud involves a financial institution or a federal disaster
You can face significant fines in addition to prison time, and may also be vulnerable to lawsuits by those who claim to have been defrauded.
Talk to a Los Angeles Wire Fraud Lawyer for Free
If you are charged with wire fraud, you need an experienced lawyer on your team. The Simmrin Law Group gives you access to some of the best federal defense lawyers in California—and we get results. Let us give you a FREE consultation. Fill out the form to the right or call us at 310-997-4688 and get your free consultation today.