Wire fraud is a financial fraudulent offense that is one of the fastest growing types of cybercrimes across the United States. Wire fraud is carried out through images, sounds, writings, signals, or signs that are transmitted through some means of electronic communication, like the internet, television, telephone, radio, or fax. Despite the classification as a “white-collar crime,” wire fraud is a serious federal offense. Anyone charged with wire fraud faces prosecution by the U.S. Department of Justice on the grounds that the fraudulent conduct crossed state lines using interstate wire networks.
At the Aron Law Firm, our wire fraud defense lawyers are experienced in opposing even the most formidable state and federal prosecutors to defend our clients' rights and freedoms. Suppose you have been charged with wire fraud or a similar fraud charge in Santa Barbara or throughout California. In that case, it's in your best interests to contact a skilled criminal defense lawyer immediately to learn your legal options.
What Constitutes Federal Wire Fraud in California?
Wire fraud is no different than mail fraud except that it refers to the communications sent by wire rather than by post. Wire fraud is established under Title 18 U.S.C. Section 1343 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… for the purpose of executing such scheme or artifice…
The prosecution must prove that certain elements of the crime exist to garner a conviction for wire fraud in California. These elements include:
- A scheme to commit fraud
- Use of wire, radio, or television communication to further that scheme
- Specific intent to commit fraud
Wire fraud involves deception to convince a victim to have confidence in trusting their financial assets to you. Due to the premeditation that occurs to commit fraudulent acts, the penalties for wire fraud are frequently harsh.
What Are Common Types of Wire Fraud Schemes in California?
Wire fraud frequently involves defrauding businesses like banks and insurance companies through business email compromise scams. However, it's becoming increasingly common for wire fraud schemes to target individuals' financial assets using the victim's bank account or credit card details.
Some of the most widespread types of wire fraud used to obtain individuals' personal financial information include:
- Phishing: Sending unsolicited emails while impersonating a reputable source to encourage individuals to disclose personal information, like credit card numbers and passwords.
- Internet scams: Using the internet to defraud or take advantage of victims to access their financial data.
- Telemarketing fraud: When unknown callers fraudulently sell to or convince victims over the telephone to provide their personal or financial information.
According to the F.B.I.'s 2020 Internet Crime Report, phishing was one of the top crimes reported in 2020, with a victim loss of $8,864,419 in California alone. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a significant uptick in internet scams in 2020, increasing by more than 300,000 complaints compared to 2019. Other common wire fraud scams affecting individual victims include non-payment or non-delivery scams and romance schemes similar to the “Nigerian prince” email scam.
What Are Penalties for Wire Fraud in California?
Wire fraud actions are counted individually for each instance that wire communication for fraudulent purposes takes place. For instance, if a phishing scam involved sending ten emails to victims, ten counts of wire fraud were perpetrated.
In California, fraud-related charges may be indicted at the state level, together with federal charges for wire fraud. However, wire fraud is considered a federal offense, for which the penalties include:
- A prison sentence of up to 20 years
- Fines up to $250,000 for individuals
- Fines up to $500,000 for organizations
Because wire fraud is a federal violation, individuals found guilty are sentenced to federal prison, not a California state prison.
Legal Defenses against Wire Fraud Charges in Santa Barbara, California
While facing federal charges for wire fraud may be a daunting experience, attorneys at the Aron Law Firm have utilized several legal defenses when representing wire fraud cases. While each defense strategy is built on the unique facts and circumstances surrounding your case, some of the more common defense strategies against wire fraud charges include:
- Lack of intent: You did not intend to commit wire fraud
- Mistake of fact: You believed the misleading information to be accurate and did not intentionally communicate false information
- Puffery: You exaggerated statements to sell a product that most consumers understand to be opinionated claims.
Retain a Skilled California Wire Fraud Defense Lawyer in Santa Barbara
Wire fraud is a severe federal offense that may lead to harsh consequences which require a skilled and knowledgeable criminal defense attorney to obtain the best possible outcome. At the Aron Law Firm, our California wire fraud defense lawyers are highly experienced in disputing fraudulent charges and other white-collar crimes. Led by former Deputy District Attorney William M. Aron, our firm puts years of trial experience to work building robust defense strategies based on the facts of our client's cases in the Santa Barbara area and throughout California.
Don't wait to consult an experienced criminal defense lawyer about your wire fraud charges. Talk to an experienced California wire fraud defense attorney at Aron Law Firm about your situation today by completing our contact form or calling (805) 618-1768.