Wire Fraud Charges & Penalties by State

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While fraud is the category of crimes that focuses on intentional deception for material gain, wire fraud is the category of fraud that has to do with the use of telecommunications equipment such as wire, television, or radio. It is defined under federal law by 18 USC § 1343 and is distinct from other categories of fraud such as fraud by mail, telemarketing fraud, and fraud by false statements or documents issued in person.

Wire Fraud Laws

Because wire fraud almost always includes an element that crosses state lines, virtually all forms of wire fraud are prosecuted under federal jurisdiction. In addition to the laws covering general acts of wire fraud, the law makes special provision for any form of wire fraud that pertains to a state of emergency or disaster, as well as any form of wire fraud that directly affects any financial institution of the United States.

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Any criminal activity that involved the United States mail or electronic/digital communications, or both, is considered Mail or Wire Fraud. Many acts that fall under this definition actually use mail, television, radio, or the internet in order to transmit false or fraudulent promises or advertisements to the unsuspecting public. The Federal Government deals very harshly with this violation, being able to fine the violator up to $1,000,000 and send that person to prison for up to 30 years. Attorney Kuniansky explains more about this charge.

Wire Fraud Crimes & Charges

Federal wire fraud laws focus upon the type of fraud being committed and the social ill involved or the type of institution that was directly impacted. The federal statutes recognize several different categories of wire fraud according to their aggravating circumstances:

  • General wire fraud is any form of wire fraud using television, radio, or wire transmission across state lines or in foreign commerce without any aggravating factors. This might be compared to the general statute for other forms of fraud.
  • A special category of wire fraud is defined for frauds that are made in connection with any disaster event as defined in section 102 of the Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, which can be consulted at 42 U.S.C. 5122. This act focuses upon federal powers and responses in the event of natural disasters or other emergencies.
  • The second special category of wire fraud focuses upon acts of wire fraud that specifically impact financial institutions. Any act of wire fraud that can be shown to be connected with the operations of a financial institution may be considered aggravated fraud under federal statutes.

Wire Fraud Punishment

Wire fraud punishment depends upon the aggravating factors defined above. Generally speaking, the minimum penalty for an act of wire fraud entails a prison sentence of no more than twenty years. A fine is also defined in the federal statutes for wire fraud. As with many other acts of fraud and financial crimes, the fine is generally determined in connection with the amount of the original fraud and the value of any material gains, if any, created by the fraud.

Wire Fraud Sentencing Guidelines

Wire fraud sentencing guidelines inform the sentencing process for all forms of wire fraud. Under federal statute, even acts of “non-aggravated” wire fraud can carry a prison sentence up to twenty years as well as a fine. Aggravated acts of wire fraud that impact financial institutions or have connections with federally declared emergencies have separate minimum penalties. These penalties range up to thirty years in prison and a fine of up to one million dollars.

Wire Fraud Statute of Limitations

In general, federal prosecutors cannot prosecute a defendant, bring them to trial, or seek punitive measures on any noncapital offense, unless the defendant is indicted or information is entered within five years of the alleged offense. (Title 18, section 3281). Note that this statute of limitations may be invalidated in cases where fraud is undertaken in connection with a capital federal offense.

Wire Fraud Cases

As the communications infrastructure of the United States continues to grow and deepen, cases of wire fraud become more common. Although many fraudsters have turned to the use of online technology in order to commit their crimes, hundreds of wire fraud cases continue to be prosecuted under federal authority each and every year.

  • In 2009, financiers Paul Greenwood and Stephen Walsh were accused of conspiracy, securities fraud, and wire fraud in connection with an alleged Ponzi scheme affecting $812 million in assets and also including $1.3 million in alleged illegal wire transfers (Law.com)
  • In July of 2013, U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman announced conspiracy to commit wire fraud charges against four Russian men and a Ukrainian who allegedly worked together to defraud organizations including NASDAQ, 7-Eleven, JC Penney and Visa of more than $300 million. (NJ Today)

Wire Fraud Quick Links & References

Wire Fraud Laws By State

Wire fraud laws are intended to discourage people from using electronic communications to defraud others, but the laws vary significantly by each state:

AlabamaHawaiiMassachusettsNew MexicoSouth Dakota
AlaskaIdahoMichiganNew YorkTennessee
ArizonaIllinoisMinnesotaNorth CarolinaTexas
ArkansasIndianaMississippiNorth DakotaUtah
CaliforniaIowaMissouriOhioVermont
ColoradoKansasMontanaOklahomaVirginia
ConnecticutKentuckyNebraskaOregonWashington
DelawareLouisianaNevadaPennsylvaniaWest Virginia
FloridaMaineNew HampshireRhode IslandWisconsin
GeorgiaMarylandNew JerseySouth CarolinaWyoming

Alabama

Under Code of Alabama Section 13A-8-1:

  • Code of Alabama Section 13A-8-3 – Wire fraud is considered theft and is a Class B felony. Punishment includes two to 20 years in prison.

Alaska

Under Alaska Stat. Section 11.46.180:

  • Wire fraud is classified as a theft offense and can be punished as a Class B felony, with up to 10 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $100,000.

Arizona

Under A.R.S. Section 13-2310:

  • Wire fraud is punishable by up to 12.5 years in prison, depending on the amount defrauded and prior criminal history.

Arkansas

Under Ark. Code Ann. Section 5-37-227:

  • Wire fraud can be charged as a Class B felony, with penalties ranging from five to 20 years in prison.

California

Under California Penal Code Section 530.5:

  • Wire fraud can result in imprisonment for two, three, or five years, along with substantial fines.

Colorado

Under Colo. Rev. Stat. Section 18-5-702:

  • Wire fraud is classified as a Class 4 felony, with penalties including two to six years in prison and fines of up to $500,000.

Connecticut

Under Connecticut General Statutes Section 53a-123:

  • Wire fraud is considered a Class D felony, with penalties of one to five years in prison and fines of up to $5,000.

Delaware

Under Title 11, Section 913:

  • Wire fraud is classified as a Class G felony, punishable by up to two years in prison and fines as determined by the court.

Florida

Under Florida Statutes Section 817.034:

  • Wire fraud can result in first-degree felony charges, with penalties up to 30 years in prison and fines up to $10,000.

Georgia

Under Georgia Code Section 16-9-93:

  • Wire fraud is a felony with penalties of one to 10 years in prison and/or fines up to $100,000.

Hawaii

Under Hawaii Revised Statutes Section 708-850:

  • Wire fraud is considered theft in the first degree, a Class B felony, with penalties up to 10 years in prison and fines up to $25,000.

Idaho

Under Idaho Code Section 18-3106:

  • Wire fraud is a felony punishable by up to 14 years in prison and fines up to $50,000.

Illinois

Under Illinois Compiled Statutes 720 ILCS 5/17-50:

  • Wire fraud is classified as a Class 3 felony, with penalties of two to five years in prison and fines up to $25,000.

Indiana

Under Indiana Code Section 35-43-5-3:

  • Wire fraud is a Level 6 felony, with penalties of six months to 2.5 years in prison and fines up to $10,000.

Iowa

Under Iowa Code Section 715A.6:

  • Wire fraud can be classified as a Class C felony, with penalties of up to 10 years in prison and fines up to $10,000.

Kansas

Under Kansas Statutes Section 21-5832:

  • Wire fraud is a severity level 7 nonperson felony, punishable by up to 34 months in prison and fines up to $100,000.

Kentucky

Under Kentucky Revised Statutes Section 514.040:

  • Wire fraud is considered theft by deception and classified as a Class D felony, with penalties of one to five years in prison and fines up to $10,000.

Louisiana

Under Louisiana Revised Statutes Section 14:67.1:

  • Wire fraud is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and fines up to $3,000.

Maine

Under Maine Revised Statutes Title 17-A, Section 353:

  • Wire fraud is a Class B crime, with penalties of up to 10 years in prison and fines up to $20,000.

Maryland

Under Maryland Code Section 7-104:

  • Wire fraud is a felony, with penalties of up to 15 years in prison and fines up to $25,000.

Massachusetts

Under Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 266, Section 30:

  • Wire fraud is punishable by up to five years in state prison or up to two years in jail and fines up to $25,000.

Michigan

Under Michigan Compiled Laws Section 750.356d:

  • Wire fraud is a felony, with penalties of up to 10 years in prison and fines up to $15,000 or three times the value of the money or property involved, whichever is greater.

Minnesota

Under Minnesota Statutes Section 609.527:

  • Wire fraud can result in imprisonment for up to 20 years and fines up to $100,000, depending on the severity of the offense.

Mississippi

Under Mississippi Code Section 97-19-85:

  • Wire fraud is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and fines up to $10,000.

Missouri

Under Missouri Revised Statutes Section 570.010:

  • Wire fraud is classified as a Class C felony, with penalties of up to seven years in prison and fines up to $10,000.

Montana

Under Montana Code Annotated Section 45-6-301:

  • Wire fraud is a felony, with penalties of up to 10 years in prison and fines up to $50,000.

Nebraska

Under Nebraska Revised Statutes Section 28-631:

  • Wire fraud is a Class IV felony, with penalties of up to five years in prison and fines up to $10,000.

Nevada

Under Nevada Revised Statutes Section 205.380:

  • Wire fraud is a Category B felony, with penalties of one to six years in prison and fines up to $10,000.

New Hampshire

Under New Hampshire Revised Statutes Section 638:2:

  • Wire fraud is a Class A felony, with penalties of up to 15 years in prison and fines up to $4,000.

New Jersey

Under New Jersey Statutes Section 2C:21-4.1:

  • Wire fraud is classified as a second-degree crime, with penalties of five to 10 years in prison and fines up to $150,000.

New Mexico

Under New Mexico Statutes Section 30-16-6:

  • Wire fraud is a third-degree felony, with penalties of up to three years in prison and fines up to $5,000.

New York

Under New York Penal Law Section 190.65:

  • Wire fraud is a Class D felony, with penalties of up to seven years in prison and fines up to $5,000 or double the amount of the defendant’s gain from the crime.

North Carolina

Under North Carolina General Statutes Section 14-113.20:

  • Wire fraud is classified as a Class H felony, with penalties of four to 25 months in prison and fines as determined by the court.

North Dakota

Under North Dakota Century Code Section 12.1-23-08:

  • Wire fraud is a Class C felony, with penalties of up to five years in prison and fines up to $10,000.

Ohio

Under Ohio Revised Code Section 2913.02:

  • Wire fraud is considered theft, a fifth-degree felony, with penalties of six to 12 months in prison and fines up to $2,500.

Oklahoma

Under Oklahoma Statutes Title 21, Section 1541.1:

  • Wire fraud is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and fines up to $5,000.

Oregon

Under Oregon Revised Statutes Section 165.013:

  • Wire fraud is a Class C felony, with penalties of up to five years in prison and fines up to $125,000.

Pennsylvania

Under Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes Title 18, Section 4106:

  • Wire fraud is a third-degree felony, with penalties of up to seven years in prison and fines up to $15,000.

Rhode Island

Under Rhode Island General Laws Section 11-41-4:

  • Wire fraud is considered larceny and is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and fines up to $50,000 or three times the value of the property, whichever is greater.

South Carolina

Under South Carolina Code Section 16-13-230:

  • Wire fraud is a felony, with penalties of up to 10 years in prison and fines at the court’s discretion.

South Dakota

Under South Dakota Codified Laws Section 22-30A-3:

  • Wire fraud is a Class 4 felony, with penalties of up to 10 years in prison and fines up to $20,000.

Tennessee

Under Tennessee Code Annotated Section 39-14-103:

  • Wire fraud is classified as a theft offense, with penalties ranging from one to 12 years in prison and fines up to $25,000, depending on the value of the property involved.

Texas

Under Texas Penal Code Section 31.03:

  • Wire fraud is classified as theft, with penalties ranging from 180 days to two years in state jail and fines up to $10,000 for state jail felonies, up to 20 years in prison and fines up to $10,000 for second-degree felonies, and five to 99 years in prison and fines up to $10,000 for first-degree felonies.

Utah

Under Utah Code Section 76-6-505:

  • Wire fraud is a third-degree felony, with penalties of up to five years in prison and fines up to $5,000.

Vermont

Under Vermont Statutes Title 13, Section 2502:

  • Wire fraud is considered a felony, with penalties of up to 10 years in prison and fines up to $1,000.

Virginia

Under Virginia Code Section 18.2-178:

  • Wire fraud is classified as larceny, with penalties including up to 20 years in prison and fines up to $2,500.

Washington

Under Revised Code of Washington Section 9A.60.040:

  • Wire fraud is a Class C felony, with penalties of up to five years in prison and fines up to $10,000.

West Virginia

Under West Virginia Code Section 61-3-24d:

  • Wire fraud is a felony, with penalties of one to 10 years in prison and fines up to $2,500.

Wisconsin

Under Wisconsin Statutes Section 943.20:

  • Wire fraud is classified as theft, with penalties including up to 10 years in prison and fines up to $25,000.

Wyoming

Under Wyoming Statutes Section 6-3-602:

  • Wire fraud is a felony, with penalties of up to 10 years in prison and fines up to $10,000.