18 U.S.C. § 1343

Fraud by Wire, Radio and Television

Elements of the crime

  • Specific intent to devise a scheme to defraud, or obtain money, or obtain property, or
  • Specific intent to devise an artifice to defraud, or obtain money, or obtain property, and
  • Using false pretenses or misrepresentations,
  • Transmission (or cause to be transmitted) by wire, radio or television,
  • In interstate or foreign commerce,
  • A writing, sign, signal, picture or sound in order to realize the fraudulent scheme or artifice.

Punishment of the crime

  • A fine, or
  • Imprisonment up to 20 years, or
  • Both a fine and imprisonment up to 20 years.
  • Enhanced punishment exists in the form of a fine not exceeding $1,000,000 or an imprisonment term up to 30 years in prison, or both the fine and imprisonment term, if the fraudulent benefit is derived from a presidentially-declared emergency operation or if it affects a financial institution.

Defenses

  • Good faith defense: This is a good defense because there is no burden of persuasion on the defendant, and it offers a complete defense to the crime charged in that it trumps the specific intent element required to be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. It simply means that whatever actions the defendant took, he or she undertook without any intent to commit fraud. If successful, it results in acquittal of the charge.
  • Statute of limitations: This is an affirmative defense asserted by a defendant against the charged crime. The statutory timeframe within which the case can be brought for wire, radio and television fraud to a federal court is 5 years, but if a financial institution was affected (see Enhancement, above), then the statutory period is extended to 10 years.
  • Ex post facto law: Under Article I, sections 9 and 10 of the US Constitution, neither the federal government nor the states may pass legislation that changes a law retroactively by criminalizing a lawful act when done, prescribing heavier punishment or by reducing evidence needed to convict a person, with the intent to punish that individual. To illustrate the mechanism of this defense, in US v Garfinkel, 29 F.3d § 1253, the defendant, a psychiatrist charged with mail fraud for using misrepresentations to obtain money and property from the government, contended that the prior date, 18 November 1988, on which his fraudulent letter was mailed, concluded the crime of mail fraud. That same date happened to be the date of enactment of 18 USC §1346, the code section criminalizing his act. The defendant therefore asserted the ex post facto defense. He could not reasonably have had knowledge of the criminality of his act on that date. However, the court found that because the mail fraud had continued subsequently, well into the following year, the defense was unsuccessful.

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