While the enforcement priorities of the federal government can change based on everything from real world events to political pressures, there is at least one area in which the Department of Justice's resolve has never wavered: white collar crime.
The true extent of this crime fighting commitment is perhaps personified by the regular reliance of federal prosecutors on the catchall crime of wire fraud. Indeed, when their investigative efforts turn up what they think might be insufficient evidence to secure a conviction in a case alleging a more serious white collar crime -- securities fraud, money laundering, etc. -- they will frequently add on a wire fraud charge given that it's easier to prove and comes with its own set of steep penalties.
What exactly is wire fraud?
In general, the elements of wire fraud include:
- The defendant concocted or participated in a scheme to defraud another out of money, property or anything else of value.
- The defendant did so voluntarily and intentionally.
- The defendant used interstate wire communications as part of the scheme to defraud.
It's worth noting that the elements of the crime of mail fraud closely mirror those of wire fraud, such that the only real difference is the requirement for interstate wire communications.
What is meant by a "scheme to defraud?"
A scheme to defraud is essentially a plot designed to deprive someone of money, property or anything of value through the making of false statements or promises, or the use of misrepresentations or otherwise deceptive actions.
For example, a scheme to defraud exists where a person voluntarily and intentionally makes someone an offer to purchase luxury goods they aren't actually in possession of in an attempt to take their money.
What is meant by "interstate wire communications?"
This is the distinguishing element of wire fraud, as it must be shown that a defendant transmitted the aforementioned false statements, false promises, misrepresentations or otherwise deceptive language across state lines using a communications device such as a phone, fax machine, computer, or smartphone.
Using the example above, wire fraud is committed where a person voluntarily and intentionally makes someone an offer to purchase luxury goods they aren't actually in possession via text message, email or even a phone call.
We'll continue this discussion in our next post, exploring both the penalties for wire fraud and the concept of honest services fraud.
If you are under investigation for wire fraud or any other type of white collar crime, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible to ensure the protection of your rights.