White-collar crimes are commonly nonviolent financial schemes committed for financial gain. A common type of white-collar crime in Michigan is wire fraud, which is commonly charged as a federal offense.
Wire fraud overview
Before the internet, white-collar criminal acts were commonly committed by phone. Advanced technology has created more opportunities for scammers to easily reach more people.
Wire fraud is using any telecommunication avenue with the intent to commit fraud across state lines. Telecommunication avenues may include email, telephone, text messaging, radio, fax machine, signs, audio and images. While mail and wire fraud have the same intentions, they only differ by mode of communication.
A common example of wire fraud is the Nigerian prince scam, which is commonly an email claiming to be from a royal figure in exile. They promise victims a portion of the funds if they hold the money for them in an account until it is safe. However, no money is ever transferred, and the purpose of the scam is to steal the target’s banking information.
Elements of a wire fraud case
To count as wire fraud, the defendant must have knowingly and willingly participated in a scam to defraud someone of money. It could be reasoned that they would have used a telecommunication device to commit the crime, or they did in fact use one. The defendant must have made an omission or false misrepresentation when they carried out the scheme.
The intended targets don’t have to lose any money; the intent to defraud is enough for a conviction. The prosecution can also bring charges if a conspiracy is present, which commonly involves two or more parties.
Wire fraud has penalties of up to 20 years of jail and a $250,000 fine for individuals and $500,000 for businesses. To avoid a conviction, it may be possible to cast doubt with valid defenses.