Like many white-collar crimes, wire fraud is a severe criminal offense that can result in federal or state charges. Given that this crime carries harsh penalties, it is important to understand the characteristics and definition of wire fraud.
Both federal and state law define wire fraud as the offense of using an electronic device or wire communication to defraud one or more people with the purpose of obtaining money or property. The penalties depend on the amount of the property obtained. In Florida, wire fraud can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony.
Even though it is not a violent crime, a wire fraud offense can result in long incarceration sentences and expensive fines. Penalties can be harsher if the offense is charged as a federal crime. Thus, do not take an accusation for wire fraud lightly.
Florida Definition of Wire Fraud
In Florida, a person can be charged with wire fraud if they use an electronic communication facility or device to intentionally transmit a false or deceptive message in furtherance of a fraudulent activity. As a white-collar crime, a wire fraud offender deceives or attempts to deceive one or more persons in the pursuit of personal financial gain.
In many cases, wire fraud schemes attempt to gain access to a person’s assets, bank accounts or personal information. Some devices or online communication that could be used to commit a wire fraud crime include:
- Social media
Under 18 USC § 1343, wire fraud is a federal crime. This statute established that a person commits wire fraud if:
- The accused devised or intended to devise “any scheme or artifice to defraud”.
- Acquired money or property through “false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises”.
- Transmitted by “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”.
Based on these definitions, an example of wire fraud could be creating a website for a fictional non-profit organization and soliciting donations via email.
Wire Fraud Sentences in Florida
According to the Florida Statute §817.034, the penalties for a wire fraud can range from a first-degree misdemeanor to a first-degree felony. The severity of the punishment depends on the amount of the property defrauded:
|Amount||Conviction||Maximum Imprisonment||Maximum Fine|
|Less than $300||1st degree misdemeanor||1 year||$1,000|
|Less than $20,000||3rd degree felony||5 years||$5,000|
|$20,000 – $49,999||2d degree felony||15 years||$10,000|
|$50,000 or more||1st degree felony||30 years||$10,000|
Furthermore, a federal charge for wire fraud carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison and a fine of not more than $250,000. However, if the offense affected a financial institution or occurred during a state of emergency/natural disaster, the accused could face up to 30 years in prison and/or up-to $1 million in fines.
Federal wire fraud offenses result in severe penalties. Nevertheless, in order to dictate sentencing, the judge will take into account aggravating and mitigating factors. Some of them include but are not limited to:
- The defendant’s past criminal history
- Amount of property or money obtained
- Total number of the victims defrauded
- Age of the victims
At both state and federal levels, a conviction for wire fraud has severe consequences. Thus, if you are facing charges for this crime, you should retain a criminal defense lawyer that can work on a strong defense for your case. Speak to the Goldman Wetzel attorneys today and schedule a free consultation.
What is the statute of limitations in Florida for wire fraud?
According to the Florida Communications Fraud Act, the prosecution for a wire fraud offense should begin within 5 years after the offense was committed. At a federal level, the statute of limitations for wire fraud is also 5 years. However, if the fraud scheme affected a financial institution, the statute is 10 years.
Contact a Wire Fraud Attorney in Florida
Even though they are non-violent in nature, some white collar crimes, including wire fraud offenses, carry stiff penalties in both state and federal courts. As a result, if you are facing criminal charges, you should retain the services of an experienced wire fraud attorney.
Goldman Wetzel is a law firm exclusively focused on representing clients facing criminal charges in both State and Federal Courts.
If you or your loved one are facing accusations for a wire fraud offense, speak to our attorneys to explore your legal options. Book a free consultation by calling us at (727) 828-3900 or send us a message via contact form.