Defending Against Wire Fraud Charges: How an Aggressive Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Challenge Them
Wire fraud is a serious federal crime that carries severe penalties, including potentially decades in prison. But there are viable defenses available that an experienced criminal defense lawyer can use to get charges reduced or dismissed. This article will explain what constitutes wire fraud, the penalties defendants face, and how a skilled attorney can mount an aggressive defense.
What is Wire Fraud?
Wire fraud is defined under 18 U.S.C. 1343 as using interstate wires, radio, or television communications as part of a scheme to defraud someone else of money or property.
The key elements prosecutors must prove are:
- Intent – The defendant intended to defraud the victim. Wire fraud cannot be committed accidentally.
- Scheme to Defraud – The defendant devised or participated in a plan to deprive the victim of money or property through deception, false promises, misrepresentations or other fraudulent means.
- Use of Wire Communications – The defendant used telephone, Internet, radio, television or other interstate wire communications to execute the scheme.
This includes things like phone calls, emails, texts, faxes, or use of the Internet.
Attempted wire fraud is treated the same as completed wire fraud. The government does not have to prove the scheme succeeded in depriving victims of money or property.
Each communication in furtherance of the scheme can be charged as a separate count. For example, a defendant who sends 10 fraudulent emails could face 10 counts of wire fraud.
Penalties for Wire Fraud
A single count of wire fraud carries up to 20 years in prison and significant fines. For schemes targeting financial institutions or involving major disasters, the maximum sentence rises to 30 years.
With the ability to stack multiple charges, defendants can face decades behind bars for wire fraud convictions.
In addition to imprisonment, courts can impose large fines up to $1 million for financial institution or disaster-related frauds. Restitution to victims may also be ordered.
How Can a Defense Lawyer Fight the Charges?
While wire fraud allegations are serious, there are ways an experienced criminal defense attorney can challenge the charges and fight for an acquittal or reduced sentence. Common strategies include:
Disputing Criminal Intent
Recall prosecutors must prove the defendant had intent to defraud. In many cases, innocent mistakes or negligence may have occurred rather than deliberate fraud.
Your lawyer may argue you acted in good faith without intent to deceive based on:
- Reliance on counsel’s advice
- No financial motive
- Compliance with regulations
- Refunds to dissatisfied customers
This can defeat the intent requirement.
Attacking the “Scheme” Element
The government must prove you knowingly participated in a scheme to defraud. Your attorney can argue you did not actually devise a scheme.
For example, maybe you were unaware of wrongdoing by co-workers or followed orders from superiors. You may have been involved in constructive fraud – reckless business practices that do not amount to intentional fraud.
Statute of Limitations Defense
Federal wire fraud charges must be brought within 5 years of the last wire communication involved in the alleged scheme. If the supposed fraud took place beyond this timeframe, your lawyer can argue the charges should be dismissed as time-barred.
First Amendment Protections
The First Amendment protects free speech. Your attorney may argue the wire communications were simply “puffery” or sales exaggeration rather than material deception.
Attacking the Criminal Complaint
In federal court, charges initially come via a criminal complaint filed by the prosecution. Your lawyer will scour the complaint searching for legal flaws or insufficient evidence to support the charges. This can lead to getting charges thrown out early.
Your attorney will launch an independent investigation into the facts. They may uncover evidence proving your innocence, such as documents, computer records, or witness statements. This evidence can defeat the charges pre-trial or lead to acquittal at trial.
An experienced lawyer may be able to negotiate a favorable plea deal with reduced charges and lighter sentencing recommendations. This avoids the risk of trial and lengthy mandatory minimums that can come with wire fraud convictions.
How a Knowledgeable Lawyer Can Help
Facing wire fraud accusations can be frightening. But an aggressive criminal defense lawyer can carefully analyze the charges and build a strong defense on your behalf.
Do not delay in seeking experienced legal counsel if federal agents come knocking with wire fraud allegations. Time is of the essence in fighting the charges. An adept attorney knows how to get out in front of the prosecution during the critical early stages.
Having a skilled lawyer in your corner levels the playing field against the government and can make all the difference in the outcome of your case. Do not leave your fate to chance. Contact a reputable criminal defense attorney right away for help if you are facing wire fraud charges.
Frequently Asked Questions About Wire Fraud Charges
What are common examples of wire fraud schemes?
Some typical wire fraud schemes include:
- Telemarketing fraud – Callers make false promises to persuade victims to pay upfront fees or provide credit card or bank account information.
- Email phishing scams – Fraudsters send spam emails posing as legitimate businesses or government agencies to trick victims into revealing personal financial details.
- Romance scams – Perpetrators develop online relationships with victims then seek gifts or money under false pretenses.
- Ponzi schemes – Investors are promised high returns but paid with funds from later investors rather than actual profits.
- Business email compromise – Email accounts of legitimate companies are hacked or spoofed to trick customers or vendors into sending payments to fraudsters.
What are the first steps after being charged with wire fraud?
Immediately contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer. Do not speak to investigators without counsel present. Ask the lawyer to analyze the charges and explain your rights and options. Follow their advice carefully throughout the case.
Start gathering documents and evidence that may help in your defense. Also make sure to avoid further communications related to the alleged fraud, as anything you say or do can be used against you.
What is the process for fighting federal wire fraud charges?
The case typically begins with a criminal complaint filed by the prosecution outlining the charges. Your lawyer will seek to get insufficient charges dismissed. If the case proceeds, it will go before a grand jury for potential indictment.
Your attorney can present evidence and witnesses to the grand jury in hopes of avoiding indictment. If indicted, your lawyer will file motions to suppress evidence or have charges dismissed pre-trial. If that fails, your case will proceed to trial or a plea deal.
What is the conviction rate for federal wire fraud cases?
Over 90% of federal criminal cases end in conviction according to government data. This is why having an experienced defense lawyer is so critical. Do not take chances with a public defender. Hire a knowledgeable attorney who specializes in federal white collar criminal defense.
How much does it cost to hire a lawyer for wire fraud charges?
Costs vary based on experience, location, and complexity of your case. Retaining a private attorney on federal criminal charges typically costs anywhere from $5,000 to $100,000+ depending on whether the case goes to trial. The investment is well worth it considering the severe penalties you will face if convicted.
Facing wire fraud accusations is frightening. But with an aggressive defense lawyer in your corner, you can avoid conviction or at least mitigate the penalties. Do not wait to seek experienced legal counsel. The sooner you have a knowledgeable attorney analyzing your charges and building your defense, the better your chances of success. With skilled representation guiding you, it is possible to defeat federal wire fraud allegations and preserve your future.