A wire fraud charge can have serious consequences. Wire fraud is a federal crime, and if you are convicted, you could be sentenced to up to 20 years in 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 have a history of helping our clients avoid prison or walk away innocent of all charges. Fill out the form to the right or give us a call to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation today.
What Is Wire Fraud Under California Law?
Wire fraud is any 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 under which you are being charged. 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.” In this situation, material means the false information must have been important enough to influence someone’s decision. Misrepresentation of a trivial fact that doesn’t matter will not count as wire fraud.
Knowingly or Recklessly
Knowingly or recklessly means you knew you weren’t telling the truth, or you didn’t care whether your statement was true or false. 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. However, 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. An example is when company executives or politicians award contracts to companies that secretly give them money in return.
For a free legal consultation with a wire fraud lawyer serving Los Angeles, call (310) 928-9347
Who Investigates Wire Fraud?
The primary body that investigates wire fraud is the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). However, depending on the specifics of the case, there are many other agencies that may get involved.
Other agencies that commonly investigate wire fraud include the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Wire fraud may also be investigated by state and local authorities.
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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. A wire fraud lawyer in Los Angeles can help defend you against this charge.
What Is the Difference Between Wire Fraud and Mail Fraud?
Mail fraud and wire fraud are both schemes designed to defraud money or property from another person or group of people.
Mail fraud is any fraud crime where the United States Postal Service (USPS) or a private or commercial carrier was used to discuss or carry out any part of the fraud scheme. Wire fraud can be charged anytime a message is sent through an interstate transmission. This communication can include email, fax, phone call, or text message.
Beyond the differences in means of communication, the other primary way these crimes vary is when they become federal crimes. When it comes to mail fraud, the transmission doesn’t have to be sent any further than to your next-door neighbor. However, to be charged with a federal wire fraud violation, the communication must cross state lines.
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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 a time when communications mainly happened by telegraph, radio, and television. However, it now includes many forms of electronic communications, in addition to communications that travel over physical wires. Wire fraud can involve 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 can be enough. 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 criminal defense lawyer will present defenses to attack the prosecution’s case. Some of the main arguments against a wire fraud charge include mistake of fact and no intent.
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 valid “mistake of fact” defense if the misrepresentation involved something complex that you did not fully understand or if you believed your statement was true.
Because wire fraud is based on your intent to commit a crime, you cannot be convicted if you didn’t mean to deceive anyone. It can be hard for the prosecution to prove intention 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.
While these are two of the most common defenses that people use to fight these charges, this list is far from exhaustive. It’s important to hire an experienced Los Angeles wire fraud attorney who can help you decide on the strategy that would be best for your situation. A qualified lawyer will be able to identify the best defense and begin building a case around that approach.
What Are the Penalties for Wire Fraud?
The penalties for wire fraud can be quite significant. If convicted, a defendant could be looking at:
- Up to 20 years in federal prison
- Up to $250,000 in fines
- Felony probation
- Paying full restitution to victims
These penalties are certainly severe, but they can go even higher if the fraud involved federal disaster relief or if the victim was a financial institution. In these cases, another ten years can be added to the prison sentence for a total of up to 30 years. The fines imposed by the court can also increase up to one million dollars.
Additional counts of fraud can carry a quarter-million dollars in fines per count.
How Does Restitution Work?
In addition to fines, if the fraud scheme was successful in depriving people of their property or money, you will be ordered to pay restitution. When a significant amount gets defrauded, the amount you pay in restitution can be far more than what you owe in fines.
When it comes to felony probation, the judge will likely order that you meet a strict set of court orders. Common conditions of probation include:
- Regular reporting to a probation officer
- Random home searches
- Random drug tests
- Not committing other crimes
- Not associating with criminals
Failure to comply with all conditions of your probation can result in serving out the rest of your sentence in federal prison.
Talk to a Los Angeles Wire Fraud Attorney Today 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. We have a history of getting results for our clients.
Give us a call or fill out our online contact form today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. One of our Los Angeles wire fraud lawyers will review your case and advise you of all your potential legal options.