Wire fraud is similar to regular fraud, except that it takes place over phone lines or involves electronic communications. The legal definition of wire fraud has four elements:
• The defendant created or participated in a scheme to defraud another out of money or property;
• The defendant did so with intent to defraud;
• It was reasonably foreseeable that the defendant would use wire communications; and
• The defendant did in fact use interstate wire communications.
For the purposes of wire fraud, “interstate wire communications” could mean telephone calls, faxes, internet communications, or even television transmissions.
Persons who are found guilty of wire fraud under federal law face the following penalties:
• Fines up to $250,000 for individuals
• Fines up to $500,000 for organizations
• Imprisonment of not more than 20 years
There are special circumstances and additional penalties of 30 years’ imprisonment and a million dollar fine, if the wire fraud is related to a presidentially declared major disaster or if it involves a financial institution.