Individuals and organizations in Florida and around the country commit wire fraud when they use any kind of electronic communications device or technology to deceive people for monetary or personal gain. Wire fraud schemes sometimes begin with emails that offer recipients a share of a large unclaimed fund, but first contact can also be made by phone, text message, television or radio. Wire fraud is usually charged as a federal crime because these schemes often involve multiple victims in several states.
The defendants in federal white-collar crime cases involving wire fraud can face decades behind bars because each fraudulent email, phone call, text message or social media post can be considered separate offenses. This means offenders who run elaborate schemes can be charged with dozens or even hundreds of counts that all carry a custodial sentence of up to 20 years in a federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000 for individuals or $500,000 for organizations. The penalties can be even more severe when the wire fraud is linked to a large financial institution or major natural disaster.
The documents and electronic communications discovered during a fraud investigation can be very difficult to explain in court, which is why most people who face federal white-collar crime charges choose to enter into plea agreements. U.S. attorneys have heavy caseloads and are evaluated based on their conviction rates, so they are often willing to make significant concessions in return for a guilty plea and a successful outcome. In May 2021, an Orlando man was sentenced to less than three years in prison for conspiracy to commit wire and tax fraud. Before he entered into a plea agreement, the man faced multiple counts that could have sent him to prison for the rest of his life.
People who commit fraud tend to be fairly easy to catch once their schemes are discovered because they usually leave behind paper or electronic breadcrumbs for investigators. Denials and excuses are likely to make things worse as lying to federal agents can lead to additional charges, so most people accused of fraud, embezzlement or bribery assert their right to remain silent.