18 U.S.C. § 1343 - Federal Wire Fraud Law
Wire fraud, defined under 18 U.S.C. 1343, is a fraudulent activity using any electronic communication. It is one of the most complex federal offenses and carries its own penalties and punishments for the underlying crime.
Simply put, wire fraud is a federal crime occurring when a perpetrator uses some form of wire communication, such as phone, internet, text messages, instant messages, broadcast over TV or radio, email, and Internet transmissions, in an attempt to commit fraud.
Wire fraud is prosecuted as a federal crime when the communication crosses state lines or international borders.
This law imposes harsh punishments if a defendant is convicted of devising a scheme to defraud or obtain money or property using pretenses by transmitting wire communication in interstate commerce.
Often wire and mail fraud are charged in the same indictment. Notably, the perpetrator does not have to complete the intended offense to be convicted. In other words, an “attempted” wire fraud is penalized the same as a completed one.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is the primary law enforcement agent investigating wire fraud allegations. The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) is responsible for seeking an indictment on federal crimes, such as wire and 18 U.S.C. 1341 mail fraud, which include some primary elements of the crime, such as the following:
- The existence of a fraudulent scheme,
- You made a material misrepresentation,
- You possessed the necessary intent (“mens rea”) to commit the crime,
- The use of interstate electronic communications to execute it.
We see these wire fraud cases come up in all different contexts. For example, somebody might be involved in some sort of real estate deal where they are wiring money, and it is a fraudulent transaction, so that person gets charged with a wire charge. You wouldn't really think that.
Based on that, you would think there would be some sort of real estate fraud charges, and sometimes there are, but for some reason, the government loves that wire fraud charge. Anytime money is being moved by the computer or by the bank, they can get you for wire fraud because you're right in their area when you're moving money and some sort of fraudulent activity is taking place.
Suppose you are convicted of wire fraud. You are facing hefty fines and prison time under the federal sentencing guidelines. Let's review this federal statute in more detail below.
What Does the Law Say?
18 U.S. Code 1343 wire fraud says, “Whoever, having devised or intending to devise any scheme or artifice to defraud, or for obtaining money or property using false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises, transmits or causes to be transmitted by means of wire, radio, or television communication in interstate or foreign commerce, any writings, signs, signals, pictures, or sounds for the purpose of executing such scheme or artifice, shall be….”
The statute also has language making it a federal crime when violations occur related to any authorized benefit in connection with a presidentially declared major disaster or emergency.
These are defined in section 102 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act defined under 42 U.S.C. 5122, or affecting a financial institution. The penalties under this law include a fine of up to $1,000,000 or 30 years in federal prison, or both.
What Are Some Examples?
Some common 18 U.S.C. 1343 wire fraud cases include the following:
- Work-at-home schemes advertised on the Internet,
- Fraudulent online investment opportunities,
- Phishing scams to get unauthorized access to accounts, such as sending fraudulent emails to deceive people into disclosing personal information, such as passwords, credit card numbers, and social security numbers.
- Telemarketing fraud, such as calling people under false pretenses to persuade them to give up credit card information,
- False radio or TV ads to sell a product that does not exist or that was grossly exaggerated.
What Are the Related Federal Crimes?
18 U.S. Code Chapter 63 Mail Fraud and Other Offenses has several federal statutes that are related to 18 U.S.C. 1343 wire fraud, such as the following:
- 18 U.S.C. 1341 - Fraud and swindles occur when someone uses the U.S. postal service to carry out a fraudulent scheme;
- 18 U.S.C. 1342 - Fictitious name or address;
- 18 U.S.C. 1344 - Bank fraud;
- 18 U.S.C. 1345 - Injunctions against fraud;
- 18 U.S.C. 1346 - Definition of “scheme or artifice to defraud;”
- 18 U.S.C. 1347 - Health care fraud;
- 18 U.S.C. 1348 - Securities fraud which are fraudulent acts concerning investments or securities;
- 18 U.S.C. 1349 - Attempt and conspiracy;
- 18 U.S.C. 1350 - Failure of corporate officers to certify financial reports;
- 18 U.S.C. 1351 - Fraud in foreign labor contracting.
Another related crime is Internet fraud which uses online services to defraud or steal from people, such as a phishing email directing people to a fake website to gather their personal information,
What Are the Penalties for 18 U.S.C. 1343?
Suppose you are convicted of wire fraud. In that case, you could face harsh penalties, including large fines and up to 20 years in federal prison.
Suppose your wire fraud case involved a financial institution like a bank. In that case, you could face up to 30 years in prison.
Notably, the sentences above apply to each count of wire fraud, and all separate counts could add a substantial amount of time in prison.
For example, suppose you are convicted of 10 separate counts of wire fraud with multiple victims. In that case, you are facing up to a 200-year sentence.
What Are the Defenses for 18 U.S.C. 1343?
Suppose you have been charged with the federal crime of wire fraud. In that case, our federal criminal defense lawyers could use different strategies to obtain the best possible outcome. What we have you do is have you come into the office. We sit down and go over all of the facts and details, and then we strategize how we're going to defend you.
Perhaps we can argue that there was a lack of intent. Recall that a wire fraud case requires a prosecutor to prove you had a specific intent to commit fraud. Maybe we can show that you did not know you were a participant in a fraudulent scheme and that there was no intent to defraud anyone.
Often, it can be challenging for a federal prosecutor to prove all the required elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.
Perhaps we can argue mistaken facts, meaning that you were unaware that the statements you were making were false. Simply put, you were mistaken about a product's ability and gave incorrect information without the intent to deceive.
If your guilt of wire fraud is not in doubt, we might be able to negotiate a favorable plea bargain with the federal prosecutor. Maybe you could plead guilty to a lesser crime with a lighter sentence. Sometimes people decide they want to cooperate with the prosecution and give details and information about somebody else.
Other times we're going to defend you by filing a motion or motions to try to get your case dismissed, but we need the facts to support that motion. You can't just file a motion in every case and expect to be successful. You need detailed facts that give you a good angle to file a motion in a federal wire fraud case.
Once we've got the game plan together, I will give you an idea by looking at the federal sentencing guidelines and seeing what type of sentence you might be facing.
We'll talk about if you actually could be successful in a motion or a trial. Once we decide the best course of action for you and your circumstances, we will take all precautions to get you the best possible resolution.
Our federal defense attorneys routinely appear in the Central District of California courtrooms and the United States District Court in Los Angeles. We offer a free case evaluation by phone or using the contact form. The Hedding Law Firm is located in Los Angeles, CA.