What is Wire Fraud and What are the Penalties for Wire Fraud?

wire fraud

What is Wire Fraud? Wire fraud is a federal crime that occurs when a person intentionally uses an interstate communications system to defraud someone else out of property, money or anything else of value. To be guilty of this crime, it must be proven that the individual both acted with a deliberate plan to defraud and also that they employed a device or method of interstate communication to carry out the plan. 

Interstate communication is simply communication that involves sending information from one state to another. Interstate communication devices are those that are used to send information from one state to another, such as phones, emails, and other forms of wire transmission. 

Topic Details Implications/Consequences
Definition of Wire Fraud A federal crime where a person intentionally uses interstate communication to defraud someone out of property, money, etc. Requires proof of deliberate fraud and use of interstate communication. Victim doesn't need to lose property for crime to occur.
Classification as a Federal Crime Wire fraud is federal if it crosses state/international borders or affects interstate/international commerce. Federal charges are filed where the fraud began or had the most impact, potentially affecting multiple states/countries.
Penalty for Individuals Conviction leads to up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 per count. Harsher punishments due to federal implications. Special implications increase severity: e.g., affecting a financial institution can lead to $1 million fine and up to 30 years in prison.
Penalty for Corporations If a representative defrauds using electronic communication, the corporation can be charged. Penalties: fines, restitution, imprisonment for involved individuals, asset forfeiture, business dissolution, limitations, potential civil liability.
Determinants of Actual Sentence Federal judges consider U.S. Sentencing Commission guidelines. Victims have a say during sentencing. Penalties can vary significantly, from no jail time to multiple years in prison. Legal counsel, especially with SEC regulation expertise, is crucial.
Legal Representation Warren Law Group offers federal criminal defense attorneys. They guide clients through the federal case complexities, protecting their rights and aiming for the best outcome.

What Classifies Wire Fraud as a Federal Crime? 

Wire fraud is deemed a federal crime if involves transmitting data or information across state or international borders or if it affected interstate or international commerce in any way. Consequently, any single case of wire fraud can impact multiple states or countries. Federal charges for wire fraud can be brought against a defendant when it is determined that the fraud has crossed state lines or U.S. borders. These charges are usually filed in the jurisdiction where the fraud was initiated or where it has had the most serious impact. 

What is the Penalty for Wire Fraud?

Because of their far-reaching implications, generally speaking, federal charges come with greater punishments than those issued on a state level. This is because the federal government has the power to bring charges against a defendant who has committed crimes in various jurisdictions, and subsequently can enforce harsher punishments that more accurately reflect the gravity of the offense. 

Under federal law, an individual who is convicted after a trial or who willingly pleads guilty to wire fraud can be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison and fined up to $250,000 for each count of wire fraud. 

Special Implications  

Wire fraud is considered an especially serious crime when it affects a financial institution or is connected to a presidentially declared disaster or emergency. In such cases, the U.S. Department of Justice often takes swift and decisive action to pursue charges of wire fraud, and if convicted, those charged could face significantly increased penalties. The “Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act” (FIRREA) permits a maximum fine of $1 million per violation and up to 30 years in prison for anyone who knowingly engages in fraudulent activity concerning a federally insured financial institution.

What is the Penalty for Wire Fraud for Corporations and Companies? 

A corporation or company can be considered to have committed wire fraud if an employee or representative of the company has used electronic communications to defraud an individual or entity out of money or property.  

The potential wire fraud penalties for a company or corporation can include fines, restitution, and prison time for any individuals responsible for these acts. Other penalties that can be imposed on the company include forfeiture of assets, dissolution of the business, and limitations on future business activities. The court can impose additional penalties as well, such as ordering the company to pay restitution to victims of fraud or requiring an internal compliance program to monitor future activities. In addition, companies can also face civil liability for wire fraud, meaning they could be sued by victims and ordered to pay damages in a civil court. 

What Determines the Actual Sentence?  

When determining the penalty for wire fraud, it ultimately comes down to the judge. Federal judges have much less leeway than their state counterparts and must consider guidelines from the U.S. Sentencing Commission. If any victims were involved, they will also be able allowed to weigh in during the sentencing hearing.  

The punishment for wire fraud can vary greatly, with some individuals receiving no jail time, even as others receive sentences of multiple years in prison. To help ensure the best outcome possible, it is advisable to consult a lawyer with experience in SEC regulations. This will guarantee that any legal advice received will, help you make informed decisions concerning your case. 

Protect Your Interests and Fight for Your Rights in the Courtroom 

At Warren Law Group, we have experienced federal criminal defense attorneys who are dedicated to protecting your legal rights and achieving the best possible outcome. We can guide you through the criminal justice process and help you navigate the complexities of a federal case. Get in touch with us today for the representation you need.



Warren Law Group defends individuals and companies in all types of litigation. Our team has decades of experience in all types of litigation, white collar defense, securities litigation, and financial services enforcement proceedings.