We hear and read advertisements every day on the radio, television, internet, regular and email. While the majority of ads are legitimate with some puffing or harmless embellishment thrown in occasionally, many people use the medium to unlawfully trick someone into buying a product or service.
Use of any of these ways to convince or trick someone into giving up funds or property is wire fraud and is a federal offense, meaning that federal prosecutors and the FBI or other federal law enforcement are involved rather than state authorities, and offenders generally face much harsher penalties.
Elements of Wire Fraud
Wire fraud is composed of the following elements that constitute the offense:
- A plan to commit fraud
- By the use of radio, television or wire in furtherance of the plan or scheme
- With the specific intent to defraud someone
If you knowingly and intentionally communicate a fact that is false and which is material or significant regarding the transaction, then you may have committed wire fraud. What is important to know about this offense is that you need not have succeeded in your fraudulent scheme.
Use of Wire
The offense requires that you have used radio, television or wire to commit the fraud. A wire includes sending a fax, telegram, phone call, email or internet. If money is sent by wire or transferred by use of the medium, this satisfies the element of use of wire.
Use of wire to further a scheme by calling a fellow conspirator to discuss the plan or to further or continue it in any manner also satisfies this element.
The fact that has been misrepresented must also have had significance in the fraudulent scheme. Falsely stating that the FDA has shown that your product will reduce blood pressure is a material representation. If you state, however, that a product will “give you wings,” is not material since no reasonable person would consider that statement as literal or plausible.
Also, you do not have to actually know that what you are saying is patently false so long as you are acting recklessly without regard to the truth of what you are representing.
Use of wire or other electronic means can lead you to be charged with other related offenses:
- Internet fraud
- Identity fraud
- Mail fraud
- Securities fraud
- Extortion and bribery
Making false or materially misleading statements about a product or security, not delivering a product, or extorting money from someone by use of the phone or other medium are all examples of wire fraud as well as these other types of fraud offenses.
Defenses to Wire Fraud
Lack of intent
You may have unwittingly participated in a fraud. If you had no knowledge of what your partner is doing in committing fraud by acting in a different role for example, you may lack the necessary intent to commit fraud.
Mistake of fact
If you represent a material fact that you had reason to believe was true based on what someone else who was in a position of having peculiar knowledge of the fact, or if you read about the fact in a periodical or misunderstood what you were reading, then you may not be guilty because you did not have specific intent or act with reckless indifference.
You face up to 20 years in federal prison as well as a fine. If a national bank was involved, such as use of the bank in transferring funds or by depositing funds, you could face up to 30 years in prison.
Under federal immigration law, if you are an alien or permanent resident and you commit a crime of moral turpitude like federal wire fraud, you may have serious immigration consequences. In some cases, you could face potential deportation and not be eligible for cancellation of removal relief.
Call the Law Offices of Ramiro J. Lluis
Facing a charge of federal wire fraud or a related offense can result in serious prison time and have long range or permanent adverse consequences on your life. If you have been charged with federal wire fraud, call the Law Offices of Ramiro J. Lluis today for a free, confidential initial consultation at (213) 687-4412.