Wire Fraud Law & Legal Definition


Wire fraud means fraud committed using means of electronic communication, like telephone or computer. The involvement of electronic communications adds to the severity or harshness of the penalty, so that it is greater than the penalty for fraud that is otherwise identical except for the non-involvement of electronic communications.

18 USCS § 1343 describes fraud by wire, radio, or television as "whoever, having devised or intending to devise any scheme or artifice to defraud, or for obtaining money or property by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises, transmits or causes to be transmitted by means of wire, radio, or television communication in interstate or foreign commerce, any writings, signs, signals, pictures, or sounds for the purpose of executing such scheme or artifice, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both. If the violation occurs in relation to, or involving any benefit authorized, transported, transmitted, transferred, disbursed, or paid in connection with, a presidentially declared major disaster or emergency (as those terms are defined in section 102 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. 5122)), or affects a financial institution, such person shall be fined not more than $1,000,000 or imprisoned not more than 30 years, or both." This section makes wire fraud a federal crime or offense for anyone to use interstate wire communications facilities in carrying out a scheme to defraud.

A person can be found guilty of that offense only if all of the following facts are proved beyond a reasonable doubt:

First: That the person knowingly and willfully devised a scheme to defraud, or for obtaining money or property by means of false pretenses, representations or promises; and

Second: That the person knowingly transmitted or caused to be transmitted by wire in interstate commerce some sound for the purpose of executing the scheme to defraud.

It is not essential that the government prove all of the particulars concerning the exact nature and purpose of the scheme; or that the material transmitted by wire was itself false or fraudulent; or that the alleged scheme actually succeeded in defrauding anyone; or that the use of interstate wire communications facilities was intended as the specific or exclusive means of accomplishing the alleged fraud.

The essential element to be proved is that the person knowingly and willfully devised or intended to devise a scheme to defraud; and that the use of the interstate wire communications facilities was closely related to the scheme because the person either wired something or caused it to be wired in interstate commerce in an attempt to execute or carry out the scheme.