Wire Fraud in New Jersey

The New Jersey Cybersecurity and Communications Integrations Cell issued a Threat Alert titled “The New Targets for Wire Fraud are the Consumers.” They explained that many acts of wire fraud in the real estate sector are now targeting consumers. In the past, these crimes had targeted title companies, agents, and attorneys. A New York Supreme Court Justice was the victim of a $1 million wire transfer scam. This served as a reminder that wire fraud crime is still prevalent.

Fraud by Wire, Radio, or TV (18 U.S. Code §1343)

The federal laws contain a statute that relates specifically to wire fraud. The crime involves the employment of a scheme that fraudulently seeks to obtain something of value by using “wire, radio, or television communication in interstate or foreign commerce.” The offense is generally punishable by up to 20 years in prison. If the offense is associated with a “major disaster or emergency or affects a financial institution” the prison sentence may be extended up to a maximum of 30 years.

The same penalties apply to those who either attempt or conspire to commit these offenses. The federal wire fraud statute is essentially the same as their mail fraud statute, except that it involves phone or electronic communications rather than the mail system.

Elements of the Offense

Several key elements must exist to prove a wire fraud case as follows:

  • The offender was acting knowingly and intentionally chose to engage in fraud to obtain something with value
  • It was very likely or probable that the scheme would involve “interstate wire communications”
  • That the offense was attempted or committed by using wire communications

Accessing to Defraud and Obtain Value (18 U.S.C. § 1030(a)(4))

This is a closely related felony-level charge that would be applicable in cases such as computer hacking. This crime is committed when the offender intentionally seeks to commit fraud by accessing a computer without proper authorization or “in excess of” their authorization. The acts must involve unlawfully obtaining something that exceeds $5,000 in value.

A conviction of this offense may result in a prison sentence of up to five years. Any offender with a similar prior conviction may be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison. The statute of limitations for these types of offenses is generally five years; however, may extend up to eight years when involving acts of terrorism.

Juvenile Offenders

These acts of fraud sometimes are committed by teenage juvenile offenders, which are governed by the Federal Juvenile Delinquency Act (FJDA). The court may impose penalties that include an order of restitution, placement on probation, or impose detention. Any period of detention would be no longer than the corresponding adult sentence of five years and could be extended until the individual turns the age of 21.

Wire Transfer Fraud in New Jersey

The Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance issued a bulletin that illustrates one way that this type of crime is committed. This scheme involves the usage of business email to illegally divert monies. For example, a home buyer receives an email that appears to be from their mortgage agent that specifies instructions for wiring their funds. The buyer later sends the funds, which are immediately deposited in some overseas account. In these scenarios, it is very unlikely that the funds will be recovered.

Theft of Services (2C:20-8)

Another form of theft involves fraudulently obtaining services to avoid paying for them. Examples may include telephone, telecommunications, and cable television. The crime is committed by assuming control of services from a provider that is unaware of this activity. Although less common, some individuals have devised schemes to obtain utilities such as electricity or gas service without paying for it.

Theft of services may involve establishing a connection through the service provider's wires or cabling. The fraud may be committed by intentionally manufacturing, construction, or installation of equipment or instruments that allow interception of a signal. For cable television, the offender may use a device that is capable of decoding a signal to unlawfully obtain service.

When this crime involves illegally obtaining cable television services, the offense is generally charged as a disorderly person offense. These are offenses that can be equated to misdemeanor offenses in other jurisdictions. Telecommunications fraud may be committed by intentionally manufacturing, constructing, or installing cabling, equipment or instruments that allow access to phone lines. This offense is deemed as more serious and the offender may be charged with a crime of the third degree.

Any devices, equipment, or paraphernalia that is used to enable these types of theft are subject to seizure and forfeiture. Those who are convicted may be ordered to pay restitution to the vendor and pay a fine of $500 per offense. The restitution amount may include any costs that the vendor incurs to repair or replace any damaged communication lines or devices as well as attorney fees.

Grading of Theft Offenses in New Jersey (2C:20-2)

  • Second-degree offense: The value involved exceeds $75,000
  • Third-degree offense: The value involved is between $500 and $75,000
  • Fourth-degree offense: The value involved is between $200 and $500
  • Disorderly person offense: Value of less than $200

The trier of fact in these cases, meaning a jury or judge, is responsible for determining the exact value of a theft. Any taxes that were evaded in committing the crime may be considered in these calculations. If multiple acts of theft are aggregated, they are added together for purposes of determining the grade of the offense.

Level of Offense

Incarceration Period

Maximum Fine

First Offense

10 to 20 years

Up to $200,000

Second Degree

5 to 10 years

Up to $150,000

Third Degree

3 to 5 years

Up to $15,000

Fourth Degree

18 months

Up to $10,000

Disorderly Person Offense

Up to 6 months

Up to $1,000

Experienced Criminal Defense for Allegations of Fraud

A criminal conviction for serious offenses such as those involving forms of fraud can have harsh consequences. Both federal and state courts are likely to impose penalties that include lengthy periods of incarceration and significant fines. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has many years of experience in effectively representing clients in these cases in New Jersey. Contact the office today for a case consultation at (888) 535-3686.

​​​Contact The Lento Law Firm Today

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When it comes to criminal defense cases, you need the right person in your corner. To learn more about how Mr. Lento can help you, call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686. or contact him online.

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