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Defining wire fraud

With so much business being conducted online these days, the opportunity for companies and private parties to be defrauded has perhaps never been higher. This may cause some who go through poor business dealings to be quick to accuse partners and brokers of trying to take advantage of them. While a person or organization accused of this may view such an allegation as being little more than baseless accusations made out of frustration, such charges should still be taken seriously. They may easily end up being classified as wire fraud

The Criminal Resource Manual (as shared by the Offices of the United States Attorneys) defines wire fraud as being any fraudulent scheme carried out by means of wire or electronic communication. Wire communication is defined as audible transfers conducted by wire, cable or similar connections. Such means of communication can include: 

  • Television
  • Telephone
  • Radio
  • Modem

Electronic communication includes signs, signals, images, sounds, data or text transmitted via wire or radio, or by electromagnetic, photoelectronic or photooptical systems. In this context, a blanket definition of wire fraud may be any scheme conducted via interstate communications. 

One may wonder if, given this broad definition, any unsatisfied client, customer or party engaged in interstate or e-commerce can simply accuse the party it transacted with of wire fraud. Fortunately, U.S. District Courts have established elements that must be present in order for an offense to qualify as wire fraud. Beyond the alleged scheme being conducted through interstate communication channels, it must be proven that a defendant voluntary and intentionally devised it with the intent to defraud, and that even in cases were direct contact may not have occurred via wire, that a defendant should have reasonably foreseen such mediums becoming involved in perpetrating it at some point. 

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