Definition Edit

The U.S. federal wire fraud statute provides:

Whoever, 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 executing such scheme or artifice, shall be fined not more than $1,000 or imprisoned not more than five years, or both. If the violation affects a financial institution, such person shall be fined not more than $1,000,000 or imprisoned not more than 30 years, or both.[1]

Overview Edit

“The wire fraud statute was enacted to cure a jurisdictional defect that Congress perceived was created by the growth of radio and television as commercial media. In its report to the House of Representatives, the Committee on the Judiciary explained:

“[T]he measure in amended form . . . creates a new, but relatively isolated area of criminal conduct consisting of the execution of a scheme to defraud or to obtain money or property by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises transmitted in writings, signs, pictures, or sounds via interstate wire or radio communications (which includes the medium of television). . . . The rapid growth of interstate communications facilities, particularly those of radio and television, has given rise to a variety of fraudulent activities on the part of unscrupulous persons which are not within the reach of existing mail fraud laws, but which are carried out in complete reliance upon the use of wire and radio facilities and without resort to the mails. . . . Even in those cases of radio fraud where the mails have played a role, it is sometimes difficult to prove the use of the mails to the satisfaction of the court, and so prosecutions often fail. Because of the greater facility in proving the use of radio, this bill if enacted might often rescue a prosecution which would otherwise be defeated on technicalities.[2]

“As the legislative history makes clear, the wire fraud statute was intended to complement the mail fraud statute by giving federal prosecutors jurisdiction over frauds involving the use of interstate (or foreign) wire transmissions.”[3]

References Edit

  1. 18 U.S.C. § 1343.
  2. H.R. Rep. No. 388, 82d Cong., 1st Sess. 102 (1951).
  3. United States v. LaMacchia, 871 F. Supp. 535, 540-41 (D. Mass. 1994) (full-text).

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