What is Wire Fraud?

May 19, 2023 Criminal Defense, Theft/Property Crimes

Wire fraud is a serious offense that can be charged by both state and federal law. Wire fraud often falls under the jurisdiction of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and is often investigated and prosecuted by federal authorities. Depending on the amount which was allegedly defrauded, wire fraud penalties can include significant fines and imprisonment.

This page will provide information on the state’s white-collar laws, in addition to a recent example case in Florida.

White Collar Crimes

White-collar crimes usually refer to non-violent criminal offenses involving money or financial gain. In Florida, some examples of white-collar crime include:

  • Embezzlement
  • Fraudulent Schemes
  • Money Laundering
  • Tax Evasion
  • Forgery
  • Identity Theft
  • Racketeering
  • Health Care Fraud
  • Intellectual Property Theft
  • Wire Fraud

Wire Fraud

Wire fraud is defined as financial fraud involving the use of telecommunications or information technology.

Wire fraud is the criminal act of using electronic communication, such as email or phone calls, to deceive others for financial gain. It can involve interstate wire communications, such as electronic funds transfers or wire transfers, as a means to perpetuate the fraudulent scheme.

Typically, wire fraud cases involve a defendant that is accused of devising a plan to intentionally misrepresent information to obtain money or property. This can involve methods such as sending false or misleading emails, fraudulent phone calls, or creating fake websites to trick victims into providing personal or financial information.

Florida Penalties for Wire Fraud

The penalties for white-collar crimes in Florida are covered under the White-Collar Crime Victim Protection Act. Under Florida Statute Section 817.034, wire fraud charges can range from a misdemeanor to a felony offense. The severity of the penalty depends on the amount the defendant allegedly defrauded.

If the defrauded amount is less than $300, the defendant faces a first-degree misdemeanor in Florida. The penalties for a first-degree misdemeanor include up to one year in jail and up to a $1,000 fine.

If the defrauded amount is over $300 but less than $20,000, the defendant faces a third-degree felony in Florida. The penalties for a third-degree felony include up to five years in prison and up to a $5,000 fine.

If the defrauded amount is over $20,000 but less than $50,000, the defendant faces a second-degree felony in Florida. The penalties for a second-degree felony in Florida include up to 15 years of imprisonment and up to a $10,000 fine.

If the defrauded amount is $50,000 or more, then the defendant faces a first-degree felony in Florida. The penalties for a first-degree felony include up to 30 years of imprisonment and up to a $10,000 fine.

Example Case of Wire Fraud in Florida

Former director of the Miss Florida pageant, Mary Wickersham, 77, has been sentenced to over a year in federal prison after pleading guilty to wire fraud.

According to the report, Wickersham served as the director of the Miss Florida Scholarship Program and formed Miss Florida LLC in 2011. She then proceeded to redirect money from the Scholarship Program into the LLC bank account which was in her control.

Wickersham allegedly used her position to receive donations from business sponsors and donors, claiming the money would go toward the scholarship fund. However further investigation revealed that the defendant was using the money for her own personal gain.

Once Wickersham stepped down from her position in 2018, the new leadership noticed the issues with the organization’s finances. A formal investigation followed, resulting in the defendant’s arrest in 2022.

The former executive director pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud earlier this year. There were initially six other charges, but those were dropped with the guilty plea. Wickersham has since been sentenced to over a year in federal prison. In addition, she must pay back $243,000 in restitution.

Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida

If you or a loved one are facing criminal charges for a white-collar crime, get ahead of your case by contacting an experienced Florida criminal defense attorney in your area. The benefits of working with a defense attorney include having a knowledgeable professional on your side to answer questions you may have regarding the legal process. A defense attorney will review your case details, strategize a defense, and fight to get your charges lessened or dropped.

Don Pumphrey and his team have spent years defending Floridians who have been accused of a criminal offense. Our team will be with you every step of the way, and make sure none of your rights are violated during the legal process. Contact Pumphrey Law Firm today at (850) 681-7777 or leave an online message on our website.

Written by Karissa Key

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