On March 11, 2013 the former mayor of Detroit was convicted of 24 counts including fraud, racketeering, and extortion. Kwame Kilpatrick will face up to a possible 140 years in prison, although it is likely he will serve much less. Although the former mayor’s behavior represents a systemic pattern of corruption, there are several lessons the rest of us can take from his example.
One such lesson is to be aware of the federal crime of wire fraud. Pursuant to 18 USC §1343 “whomever, having devised or intending to devise any scheme or artifice to defraud, or for obtaining money or property by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations or promises, transmits, or causes to be transmitted by means of wire, radio, or television communication in interstate or foreign commerce, any writings, signs, signals, pictures, or sounds for the purpose of [so] executing…” has committed wire fraud. This is a serious crime and carries a sentence of up to $1,000,000.00 and a possible term of 30 years in prison.
Aside from the severity of the crime, it is also a very easy crime to commit. Think of all the ways you use technology these days and all the messages you transmit. If even one of them can be interpreted as you having an intent to defraud to obtain money or property you could be charged with the federal crime of wire fraud. While in the past the use of the internet alone for misrepresentation was insufficient to constitute the basis for wire fraud (United States v. Phillips, 376 F. Supp 2d 6 (D. Mass. 2005), recent cases have clouded the issue. As of United States v. Kieffer, 681 F.3d 1143 (10th Cir. 2012) cert. denied, 133 S. Ct. 996 (U.S. 2013) there is some question over whether mere internet connections are sufficient to constitute wire fraud.
If this case law stands, it will become much more likely that you or someone you are close to could be charged with federal wire fraud rather than just big government actors like Kwame Kilpatrick.
To be convicted of wire fraud the following elements must be proven against you
- scheme or artifice to defraud or the obtaining of property by fraud
- a wire or possibly just internet communication.
Furthermore, each separate incident can form the basis for a separate charge. If, as in the Kilpatrick case, a pattern of behavior can be established RICO charges may be implicated.
What can be done as a defense is you are charged with Wire Fraud ?
An experienced attorney will work to prove that any misrepresentation was not material, a complete defense to the charge of wire fraud. Further, the Rosenblum Law Firm will stay apprised of all relevant case law so if there is a way to prove that internet connections are an insufficient nexus we will do so. Alternatively, a good attorney can work to develop a good faith defense and demonstrate that you intended to carry out the promises and representations. This too is a complete defense because without intent one of the elements of the crime has not been met and you will be found innocent. Whether these defenses apply or not the Rosenblum Law Firm can negotiate to try to get you charged with a lower crime. Having a good defense only bolsters your case.
Brian Garmo of the Garmo & Kiste, PLC is a criminal defense, traffic, and family law lawyer in Troy, Michigan.