We naturally expect certain federal crimes to carry significant sentences, especially when they involve causing physical or mental harm to another person. We expect people convicted of child pornography or drug trafficking to get 20-30 years, or even life in prison, for example. But when the crime involves using the internet (i.e., cybercrimes), those penalties can also be surprisingly severe. Let's look at a few instances where being convicted of a federal internet crime could get someone a stronger sentence than they expected.
The simple act of gaining unauthorized access to a computer (hacking) doesn't usually carry a huge penalty on its own because it is a misdemeanor offense. However, when the hacking occurs with the intent of committing another crime, such as theft, the penalty can go up dramatically. A first offense can land you up to 10 years in federal prison and up to $10,000 in fines. A second offense can result in 20 years.
Wire fraud is the use of electronic communications (e.g., the internet) to defraud someone else. No money has to change hands for it to constitute wire fraud—only intent or a scheme. Even a simple failure to disclose a conflict of interest can be considered fraud. It's a federal crime because the internet is considered an interstate communications channel. A wire fraud conviction can garner as much as 20 years in prison.
Internet Bank Fraud
Obtaining funds from a bank through fraud can take many forms, from forging documents to stealing checks to taking loans under a phony name. The internet can also be used to commit bank fraud—for example, setting up a phony website to impersonate a bank and convincing people to make deposits. Internet bank fraud and other types of bank fraud can result in a whopping 30 years in prison if you are convicted.
Based on these examples, being charged with a federal internet crime is nothing to be taken lightly. The lawyers of the Sigal Law Group have an excellent track record in defending people who are accused of these and other federal crimes. Call us today at (818) 325-0570 for a free consultation.