In Nevada, wire fraud is a federal crime and therefore prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office rather than local district attorneys. Simply put, wire fraud is the use of wire communications to carry out a fraudulent scheme.
Wire fraud generally carries up to 20 years in prison. If a bank is the fraud victim, the maximum sentence is 30 years.
However, we can fight the case in pursuit of a:
- acquittal; or
- substantial charge reduction.
In this article, our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys discuss:
- 1. What is considered wire fraud?
- 2. Who investigates wire fraud?
- 3. What are the defenses?
- 4. What are the penalties?
- 5. What is the wire fraud statute?
- 6. Related white collar crimes
1. What is considered wire fraud?
Wire fraud is just what it sounds like: Using wire communications to carry out a fraudulent act.
Common wire communications are:
- the telephone,
- radio, and
A classic example of wire fraud is email scams that claim the recipient will receive a prize in exchange for emailing back their credit card information. Of course the sender plans to use the credit card information for themself.
In order for you to be convicted of wire fraud, prosecutors must prove the following five elements:
- You planned or carried out a “fraudulent scheme”;
- You intended to defraud the victim;
- Your lies were an important part of the fraud (“materiality”);
- You relied on wire communications to carry out the fraudulent scheme; and
- This wire communication crossed state lines.1
2. Who investigates wire fraud?
Since wire fraud is a federal crime, any cases arising out of Nevada are handled in either of these federal courts:
- the Lloyd D. George Federal Courthouse in Las Vegas, or
- the Bruce R. Thompson Federal Courthouse in Reno.
3. What are the defenses?
Having represented defendants in these situations, our criminal defense lawyers found that the most effective wire fraud defense is to argue that you had no fraudulent intent.
Intention is intangible. Therefore, it is very difficult for prosecutors to prove beyond a reasonable doubt.
If we can show you did not knowingly make any misrepresentations and acted in good faith, we may be able to get the wire fraud charges dismissed.
Example: Tony in Carson City airs a regional radio commercial advertising his website. Jeremy in San Francisco hears the commercial and goes to the website, which infects Jeremy’s computer and deposits his money into Tony’s bank account.
Here, Tony is not guilty of wire fraud as long as he was genuinely unaware of the malware and was not purposely defrauding anyone. Unless prosecutors can produce sufficient evidence of intent to defraud, Tony violated no federal law.
Another potential defense is that law enforcement found its evidence through an illegal search. In these criminal cases, we would file a motion to suppress that asks the judge to disregard this unlawfully-obtained evidence.
If the judge agrees and grants our motion to suppress, then the federal government may be left with too little evidence to continue prosecuting you.
4. What are the penalties?
Wire fraud typically carries up to:
- 20 years in Federal Prison, and/or
- a fine (which the judge determines depending on the seriousness of the case).
Plus, you would be ordered to pay restitution to the victims.
However, the maximum sentence for wire fraud is harsher if either:
- a financial institution (such as a bank) was defrauded, or
- the fraud involved federal disaster relief.
In either of these two cases, wire fraud carries up to:
- 30 years in prison, and/or
- $1 million in fines.
Note that no federal prisons are currently located in the state of Nevada.3
5. What is the wire fraud statute?
18 U.S.C. 1343. Fraud by wire, radio, or television
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 occurs in relation to, or involving any benefit authorized, transported, transmitted, transferred, disbursed, or paid in connection with, a presidentially declared major disaster or emergency (as those terms are defined in section 102 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. 5122)), or affects a financial institution, such person shall be fined not more than $1,000,000 or imprisoned not more than 30 years, or both.
6. Relates white collar crimes
- bank fraud
- health care fraud
- identity theft
- mail fraud
- money laundering
- mortgage fraud
- obtaining money by false pretenses
- securities fraud
Arrested? Contact our Nevada law firm for legal advice. Our fraud attorneys serve clients in Las Vegas, Clark County, and throughout the state.
Learn more about our federal criminal law attorneys.
- 18 U.S.C. 1343. See also 8.124 Wire Fraud, Manual of Model Jury Instructions (used in the Ninth Circuit). See, for example, United States v. Scallion, (5th Cir., 1976) 533 F.2d 903 (“Nevada law is irrelevant to the federal offense of using interstate wire facilities in carrying out a scheme to defraud the casinos[.]“). See also, for example, Nevada woman arrested for scamming money from the elderly, Fox News (August 31, 2022).
- What We Investigate, FBI.
- See note 1. See, for example, United States v. Kirilyuk (9th Cir., 2022) 29 F.4th 1128.