Fraud is a term that refers to deception with the intended result being personal or financial gain. Fraud can include false statements or misrepresentations to gain something of value. 

Both criminal and civil laws cover fraud, but only government prosecutors can file criminal charges. However, victims of fraud can file civil suits. A type of fraud is wire fraud, a federal offense in which both state and federal charges can apply. 

Wire fraud 

Wire fraud is a criminal offense usually investigated by the FBI. The wire fraud statute, 18 U.S. Code 1343, applies to those who attempt to deceive or defraud to gain money or property by transmitting through wire, radio or television communication. 

Transmissions can include any of the following: 

  • Writings 
  • Signs 
  • Signals 
  • Pictures 
  • Sounds 

Elements of wire fraud 

Wire fraud takes place over or involves electronic communications such as telephone calls, faxes, internet or television. Wire fraud, as defined by the federal government, includes four elements: 

  1. A person participated in a scheme to defraud someone out of money or property. 
  2. A person used the scheme with intent to defraud. 
  3. It was reasonably evident that the person would use wire communications. 
  4. The person used interstate wire communications. 

Penalties 

Those charged and found guilty of wire fraud could face the following penalties: 

  • Fines of $250,000 for individuals 
  • Fines of $500,000 for organizations 
  • Not more than 20 years’ imprisonment 

Penalties increase if a person uses wire fraud relating to a presidentially declared major disaster. Imprisonment can increase to 30 years, and fines can go up to as much as a million dollars. 

Each time a person uses a wire transmission to defraud an individual, the federal government separates the count. If a person were to make several phone calls and use emails for the same scheme, there may be a count for each use. Each count increases prison time and fines.