Wire fraud


Wire fraud

Wire fraud is a legal concept in the United States Code which provides for enhanced penalty of any criminally fraudulent activity if it is determined that the activity involved electronic communications of any kind, at any phase of the event. As in the case of mail fraud, this statute is often used as a basis for a separate federal prosecution of what would otherwise have been only a violation of a state law.

The crime of wire fraud is codified at [http://assembler.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/uscode18/usc_sec_18_00001343----000-.html 18 U.S.C. § 1343] , and reads as follows:

:"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 affects a financial institution, such person shall be fined not more than $1,000,000 or imprisoned not more than 30 years, or both."

In one important case (United States v. LaMacchia (1994) [http://www.eff.org/legal/cases/LaMacchia/lamacchia_acquittal.decision -- text at eff.org] ), an MIT student was charged with wire fraud when he could not be charged with criminal copyright infringement (having not personally profited from the online distribution of millions of dollars worth of illegally copied software). The United States District Court, District of Massachusetts, dismissed the charges, noting they were an attempt to find a broad federal crime where the more narrowly defined one had not occurred. Congress promptly amended the copyright law to limit further use of this loophole.

The alleged misrepresentation to support a conviction under 18 U.S.C. § 1343 must be a material misrepresentation. Neder v. United States, 527 U.S. 1, 23 (1999). A misrepresentation that is capable of influencing or has a "natural tendency" of influencing a decision is material. Id. at 13.

Thus, the essential elements of the crime of wire fraud are:

(1) Devise or intend to devise a scheme or artifice to defraud another person based on a material representation;(2) With the intent to defraud;(3) through the use of interstate wire facilities (e.g. telecommunications of any kind).

See 8th Circuit [http://www.juryinstructions.ca8.uscourts.gov/criminal_instructions.htm Pattern Criminal Jury Instructions, 242 & 250] .

A fourth element will be included where the alleged victim is a financial institution, to enhance sentencing as provided in the statute.

ee also

*phone fraud
*internet fraud
*advance fee fraud


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