A man was recently charged in federal court with conspiring to sell puppies and other animals over the Internet. The defendant would allegedly accept customers’ money and tell them a puppy or other animal of their choosing would be delivered to them. Shortly afterwards, the customers would receive an email stating there were delivery problems and they needed to pay more money. No customers ever received the animal they ordered or had their money returned. Six people have come forward alleging they were victims of the scam.
The defendant was arrested in December and charged with wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and forging the seal of the U.S. Supreme Court. Wire fraud is a federal offense that has become more common in recent years.
What is Wire Fraud?
Wire fraud is a federal offense defined under U.S. Code, Title 18, Section 1343. The crime occurs when a person acts fraudulently or attempts to commit fraud using electronic communication. The offense is considered federal due to the fact that when a person commits wire fraud, they use interstate wire communications to do so.
For the prosecution to secure a conviction, they must prove three elements of a case. They must establish:
- The defendant must have the intention to defraud a person. There is no such thing as accidentally committing wire fraud.
- The defendant used interstate wire communications to commit the offense.
- A reasonable person would understand that interstate wire communications would be needed to commit the fraudulent act.
The term ‘interstate wire communications’ is a broad one that encompasses many devices. In the past, the courts have found that landline phones, cell phones, public internet services, and computers all qualify as interstate wire communications.
Penalties for Wire Fraud
The penalties a person may face if convicted of wire fraud are serious. After a conviction, a person may face as many as 30 years in federal prison and a maximum of $1 million in fines. If a person’s case involves more than one instance of wire fraud, they can face charges for each separate scheme. In the most recent story, the defendant may face a separate charge for every time he defrauded someone out of money.
It is also important to know that a scheme does not have to be successful in order for the prosecution to secure a conviction. Even an unsuccessful attempt to defraud someone can result in a conviction.
Our Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Lawyers can Help with Your Charges
If you or someone you love has been charged with wire fraud, it is essential that you speak to a Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. At van der Veen, Hartshorn and Levin, we have the experience federal criminal cases require and we will use it to create a solid defense for your case. When you need the best chance of a successful outcome, call us at (215) 486-0123 or contact us online to schedule a consultation with one of our skilled attorneys.