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Understanding Jefferson Parish councilman's wire fraud charges

A few years ago, federal investigators began to probe then Jefferson Parish Councilman Chris Roberts’s finances. In May, a federal jury handed Roberts a 29-count indictment. Roberts, who resigned from the Council in April, pleaded not guilty to the crimes. If convicted, Roberts faces a maximum penalty of 475 years in prison and $6.2 million in fines.

In addition to tax evasion, the indictment accuses Roberts of committing 18 instances of wire fraud.

What is wire fraud?

Fraud is a broad term that refers to acts of intentional deception for monetary gain. Wire fraud is a subset of this term, where the perpetrator uses interstate electronic communication to commit fraud.

However, because we live in the digital age, wire fraud can be attached to a broad range of fraud allegations.

For example, Roberts allegedly defrauded a local landscaping company while acting as the CEO. According to the indictment, he wrote checks from the company to himself and his other businesses under false pretenses. Roberts allegedly misled the owner of the company through text message and used interstate wires to transfer the money to bank accounts he held.

Elements of a wire fraud case

In order to convict for wire fraud, the prosecution must be able to prove three key elements. The must be able to show that the defendant:

  • Engaged in a scheme to defraud another party of money or property,
  • Did so with the intent to commit fraud and
  • Used interstate wire communications during the scheme.

Defenses against wire fraud charges

As with all criminal charges, a wire fraud defendant must be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. There are many defenses for wire fraud. Some of the most common defenses include:

  • Good faith: A defense focused on proving that the defendant had no intention to commit fraud.
  • Constructive fraud: Similar to a good faith defense, this defense claims that the fraud was the result of reckless business practices and not of intent.
  • Statute of limitations: Under U.S. law, an individual cannot be criminally prosecuted once a certain amount of time has passed. For wire and mail fraud, the statute of limitations is five years.

As the trial goes on, it will be interesting to see how Roberts and his counsel combat the charges.

Though Roberts was a public servant, he faces charges that any private citizen could face. If you face any federal charges, a criminal defense attorney who has experience with federal cases can make the difference in your case’s outcome.

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