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Wire Fraud/Scienter

Los Angeles, CA |

Do most federal courts allow the scienter defense in wire fraud cases? If so is it discretionary based on what federal district the case is in? If it is based on which federal district the case is in why is this (because it seems it would only be fair if it was equal all across the board)?

Attorney Answers 4


  1. Intent is always an issue in fraud cases so I don't see why it should be any different in federal court.


  2. Intent is an element of wire fraud, mail fraud, bankruptcy fraud, etc. that the Government is required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. So the technical answer to your question is, no it is not a defense. The affirmative burden to prove intent lies on the Government.


  3. I agree with my colleagues but in practice the intent may be inferred from your actions. If the case is in US District Court for the Central District of California - the rulings of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals will control if applicable.

    This is not legal advice but a general comment on society based on a limited set of hypothetical circumstances. No one should act or refrain from acting based on these comments without seeking appropriately licensed legal or professional advice. The author disclaims all liability in respect to actions taken or not taken based on his comments.


  4. As you may known "scienter" just means knowledge. Sometimes the term is used loosely as equivalent to "mens rea," which means guilty mind, but I think it is better to distinguish the concept of scienter from other terms relating to what is going on in someone's mind. In federal fraud cases--whether brought under Section 1341, 1343, or 1344 of Title 18--the government must prove that you knowingly and intentionally attempted to or carry out a scheme or artifice to defraud another person of money or other things of value using false and fraudulent representations . To defend against such a charge, one may argue that he did not so intend. In the strict sense, I suppose, a scienter defense would consist in denying that you knew that the representations allegedly made were false. The Ninth Circuit and the United States Supreme Court have decided a number of cases explaining good faith as a defense in fraud cases.

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