The United States Congress first outlawed mail fraud nearly a century after national independence. The technological era opened the door to advanced methods of deception through modern communication.
In 1952, Congress extended the ban on deception to include electronic communication. When a person runs afoul of the law in a white-collar offense, wire fraud charges may tag along.
Features of wire fraud
Wire fraud is a federal offense. The act occurs when someone knowingly uses wire, radio, television or the internet to commit a scheme to defraud another person. The deception can be against an individual or institution.
A conviction of wire fraud requires proof of four elements:
- The defendant devised or participated in a scheme to defraud
- The defendant acted with the specific intent to defraud
- The defendant used interstate communication, such as radio, television or the internet, in furtherance of the scheme
- The scheme caused or could have caused an unsuspecting person to suffer financial loss
The law requires prosecutors to prove these elements beyond a reasonable doubt to rule against a defendant.
Defenses against wire fraud
Intent is a crucial element of wire fraud. If a defendant can establish that there was no intent to defraud, the judge may see fit to drop the charges. Mistake of fact can be another consideration. A person who communicates false information but believes the statements to be factual lacks fraudulent intent.
The puffery defense applies to someone who used exaggerated statements or superlatives to sell a product. A consumer should not view an apparent use of hyperbole in sales and advertising as an intent to defraud.
A wire fraud conviction can have long-lasting consequences. A person facing the charges has to consider various details to understand how to handle a case.