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How can an attorney defend against federal wire fraud charges?

By Spodek Law Group | October 16, 2023
(Last Updated On: October 17, 2023)

Last Updated on: 17th October 2023, 05:44 pm


Defending Against Federal Wire Fraud Charges

What is Federal Wire Fraud?

Wire fraud is when you use the phone, internet, or electronic communications to commit fraud. For example, emailing fake invoices to customers or making false statements over the phone to get money. Federal wire fraud means the FBI and U.S. attorneys are handling the case since it involves interstate communications.

The legal definition of wire fraud is using wire communications to execute a scheme to defraud or obtain money under false pretenses. The key elements the prosecution must prove are:

  • You used phone, internet, tv, radio, or electronic communications
  • You did it intentionally with intent to defraud
  • Your communications furthered the fraudulent scheme

Penalties for wire fraud are up to 20 years in prison and massive fines. So this is serious business. The feds don’t mess around with white collar crime.

How Can a Lawyer Defend Against These Charges?

An experienced white collar defense attorney can fight federal wire fraud charges using several strategies. Here are some of the most common ways lawyers defend clients in these cases:

Attack the Evidence

A lot of wire fraud cases depend on electronic evidence like emails, phone records, and financial statements. The attorney will scrutinize this evidence to find holes that create reasonable doubt. For example, showing that certain emails were altered or the client’s phone was used by someone else that day. When the evidence has problems, its harder for prosecutors to prove intent and furtherance of a fraudulent scheme.

Argue Lack of Criminal Intent

An essential element of wire fraud is intent to defraud. The defense lawyer will argue the client never intended to commit fraud and the communications were innocent mistakes or misunderstandings. For example, claiming the client used industry jargon that outsiders misinterpreted as fraudulent statements. Or showing the client relied on bad advice from others. By arguing lack of criminal intent, the attorney can defeat the charges.

Claim No Scheme to Defraud

The government must also prove there was a scheme to defraud in place. The lawyer may claim the client’s communications were not part of any organized fraudulent effort. If the evidence shows a few stray false statements instead of an overarching scheme, its much harder to convict on wire fraud.

Allege Constitutional Violations

Defense lawyers scrutinize how the government collected evidence and built the case. Violations of constitutional rights like illegal searches, seizures, or self-incrimination can result in evidence being excluded. For example, if the feds got phone records without a warrant, the lawyer can seek to suppress that evidence and weaken the prosecution’s case.

Negotiate a Plea Deal

Many wire fraud cases end in plea bargains instead of trials. The attorney negotiates with the prosecution for reduced charges or sentencing recommendations in exchange for the defendant’s guilty plea. This avoids the risk and expense of trial. But the lawyer has to secure a fair deal that minimizes penalties.

Specific Defenses Lawyers Use

In addition to the above general defense strategies, lawyers employ more specific defenses tailored to the facts of each wire fraud case. Some examples include:

Reliance on Experts

Showing the client relied on financial, legal, or other expert advice that led to the questionable communications. This can negate intent by proving the client thought the actions were proper based on the expert consultation.

Personal Use

Arguing the client used the money obtained by fraud for personal expenses instead of business purposes. While unethical, courts have ruled personal use alone does not always constitute wire fraud. This defense attempts to place the actions outside the legal definition of the crime.

Lack of Benefit

Demonstrating the client did not actually benefit from the alleged fraudulent representations. If the communications did not result in direct financial gain, its harder to show criminal intent or furtherance of a scheme. This defense claims the lies were just empty boasts that did not defraud anyone.

Free Speech

Allegations of false statements in press releases, social media posts, or other public forums may be defended as free speech instead of fraud. The First Amendment protects exaggerated commercial speech that no reasonable person would rely on. This argues the communications were mere puffery, not criminal acts.

Statute of Limitations

Federal wire fraud has a 5 year statute of limitations. The lawyer will scrutinize the timing of the alleged criminal acts. If the communications occurred more than 5 years before charges are filed, this defense can defeat the case entirely.

Cooperation and Restitution

Offering substantial assistance to the government in investigating and prosecuting others or paying full restitution to victims may persuade prosecutors to drop charges. This shows acceptance of responsibility and mitigates the criminal conduct.

The Importance of an Experienced Attorney

As you can see, defending complex federal wire fraud accusations requires an attorney well-versed in criminal law, defense strategies, and constitutional rights. Don’t go it alone against the formidable resources of the FBI and U.S. attorneys. Hire the best defense lawyer you can afford. Look for a seasoned litigator with specific experience defeating wire fraud cases in federal court. This gives you the best chance at preserving your freedom and protecting your future.

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