Late last month, State Representative Reggie Fullwood pleaded guilty to federal charges of wire fraud, thereby ending his campaign for re-election (and forfeiting, too, his own right to vote). Fullwood had been indicted earlier this year on 14 criminal counts, most of which stemmed from using contributions to his campaign for his personal benefit.

Such acts of deceit seem to becoming more prevalent. Public officials are regularly in the public spotlight for wire fraud and related crimes (a Chicago congressman was also recently indicted), yet such charges are, of course, not limited to the politically powerful or the financially successful. 

What is wire fraud?

Wire fraud occurs when an individual or group of individuals use interstate wire communication to defraud another party of their money. It is very similar to other types of fraud, but it happens by means of electronic communication. This could mean e-mail, the internet, telephones, fax machines, television, etc. The ease-of-access to these technologies is often mentioned in discussions of why electronic fraud is becoming more common.

It is important to note that a loss of money is not necessary for a wire fraud conviction. Technically, wire fraud is committed as soon as an individual engages in a scheme to defraud another person by means of interstate communication.

What are the penalties?

Under U.S. Code, being convicted of a single act of wire fraud could result in up to two decades in prison. (This particular code also specifies that, if an act of wire fraud happens in connection with a presidentially declared disaster or emergency, it could result in a fine of up to $1,000,000 and/or up to 30 years imprisonment.)

According to News 4, Representative Fullwood faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and $250,000. Yet, the media notes, it is likely the prosecution will seek a lesser sentence in light of his guilty plea.

His ultimate penalties have yet to be determined, but already he was compelled to give up his political ambitions. His replacement in the campaign, Tracie Davis, won election to Florida’s District 13 two weeks ago.