The Anatomy of a Wire Fraud Scheme: Key Elements and Indicators

Facing wire fraud charges in New Jersey is a serious matter. Federal and state law enforcement agencies prosecute wire fraud schemes aggressively. On conviction, penalties can include substantial fines and up to 20 years in federal prison. If a scheme targets ten or more people or a vulnerable individual, the wire fraud penalty can be even more severe.

If you have been charged with committing wire fraud, or if you have reason to believe you might face such charges, it is essential that you understand the definition of wire fraud, various types of wire fraud schemes, and possible defense strategies you might be able to employ. The experienced legal team at Keith Oliver Criminal Law has compiled the following guide to help you understand what you are facing and the legal options available to you.

What Are The Elements of Wire Fraud?

Knowing how to defend yourself against these charges entails first understanding the wire fraud definition. Wire fraud is the intentional use of any form of electronic communication to deprive another party of their property or money deceptively. Wire fraud can take place via:

  • Email
  • Phone
  • Fax
  • Text message
  • Social media

Video call

The crime of wire fraud generally refers to any plot that uses such means of defrauding another individual across state or international borders. For a plot to be considered wire fraud, the following elements must be present:

  • The intent to defraud
  • Using interstate or international electronic communications
  • Acting with the intention of obtaining another party’s money or property

Common Types of Wire Fraud Schemes

Because wire fraud is such a broad category of criminal activity, it takes many forms. Some wire fraud examples include:

Phishing emails: Fraudsters posing as legitimate companies or individuals send emails to trick victims into sharing personal information or account details that can be used for identity theft or accessing finances.

Online romance scams: Scammers develop online relationships with victims, gaining their trust and affection before asking for money for various false needs and emergencies.

Fake business or investment opportunities: Criminals create websites and marketing materials for nonexistent businesses to get victims to invest money in a fake opportunity.

Fraudulent invoices: Companies or individuals receive invoices from scammers charging them for services or goods they never ordered.

Identity theft: Imposters obtain personal information to open fraudulent accounts, make purchases, or commit other crimes while posing as the victim.

Business email compromise: Criminals pose as executives within a company to trick staff into transferring funds to their accounts.

The Mechanics of a Wire Fraud Scheme

Though the specifics vary, wire fraud schemes generally follow a similar pattern.

First, the fraudster identifies a target victim or victims and researches them enough to make their scam believable. They then develop a scheme and fake documents, websites, or email accounts to trick the victim. The fraudster then contacts the victim and works to gain their trust over time.

At some point, the scammer asks for money to be wired, valuable personal details to be shared, or other actions that will allow them to profit directly from the victim. The criminal may continue the scam as long as possible until the victim catches on or they have gotten all the money they can.

Laws Surrounding Wire Fraud

Under federal law, while there is no wire fraud minimum sentence, those convicted of the crime can face up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. If a company or organization violates a wire fraud statute, their fine may be up to $500,000.

Under certain circumstances, the maximum prison sentence is 30 years, and the maximum fine is $1 million. Speak to your attorney to determine whether your charges fall into one of these special categories.

It is important to note that the fraudulent scheme does not necessarily need to succeed for a conviction to occur. A guilty verdict is possible if the prosecution can prove that the defendant intended to defraud or acted with the knowledge that fraudulent communications were being sent.

How Authorities Investigate Wire Fraud

Law enforcement agencies like the FBI have special cybercrime units to investigate wire fraud. Tactics they use include:

  • Analyzing suspicious financial transactions and activity patterns that match known scams
  • Tracing communications back to ISPs and devices used by criminals
  • Posing as potential victims to proactively interact with fraudsters
  • Partnering with banks, companies, and other agencies to share data and insights into schemes
  • Getting legal warrants to access emails, bank accounts, and other documentation as evidence
  • Locating and arresting perpetrators where possible, even across borders

Defense Strategies Against Wire Fraud Charges

If you are facing wire fraud charges, do not despair. Some strategies criminal defense attorneys use to defend against wire fraud charges include:

  • Challenging the electronic evidence collection process and procedures
  • Arguing that the defendant had no intention to defraud or did not directly profit (if the defendant happens to accidentally commit wire fraud)
  • Demonstrating the defendant did not initiate the fraudulent communications
  • Showing the defendant was unaware that the activity was fraudulent
  • Providing records that contradict the prosecution’s account
  • Leveraging sentencing guidelines to seek minimized penalties
  • Hiring an attorney with experience handling wire fraud cases can maximize your chances of retaining your liberty and rights and avoiding a wire fraud conviction.

Navigating Your Legal Journey

Facing wire fraud charges involves high stakes and complex processes. As such, be sure to:

  • Hire an experienced criminal defense attorney as early as possible to guide you through the criminal justice process.
  • Avoid further communications with authorities before consulting your lawyer.
  • Cooperate appropriately with your legal team and follow their advice.
  • Understand the charges, evidence, and potential penalties you are facing.
  • Explore any plea deal options your lawyer may secure for you.
  • Prepare diligently with your attorney if your case goes to trial.
  • Consider all avenues of appeal if you are convicted.

Contact Our New Jersey Wire Fraud Defense Attorneys for Help

Facing any federal crime is overwhelming, especially federal wire fraud charges. With the power and resources of the Department of Justice against you, you need to be confident about your defense strategy. An experienced wire fraud defense attorney in New Jersey can advise you about your legal options and stand up for your liberty.

The knowledgeable and skilled legal team at Keith Oliver Criminal Law understands how to mount a vigorous defense and can work to protect you from the harshest outcomes in your case. With us on your side, you can have the confidence and clarity you deserve. Contact us today for a free case review to learn more about how we can help you.

Author: Keith G. Oliver

Founding partner Keith G. Oliver has a passion for helping people who are caught up in the criminal justice system. He believes that everyone has a right to be presumed innocent, and that one mistake shouldn’t define a person forever. This passion drives Mr. Oliver to tirelessly fight for his clients and pursue the best possible outcome in every case.