The United States Code makes it a federal crime for any person to commit fraud with the aid of interstate wire communications (18 USC 1343).
In order to prove wire fraud three elements must be met; (1) there has to be a scheme to commit any fraud or an intent to make such scheme (like a plan to obtain money or property through false pretenses), (2) the scheme has to be made with the intent to commit fraud and (3) interstate wire communications have to be used in carrying out the scheme.
Wire communications most frequently used in wire fraud cases include any kind of telecommunication like using email, transmitting a fax, communicating through television or radio and transferring money in and out of financial institutions. It is not necessary for the wire communication to be fraudulent itself or for the scheme to succeed. The only necessary requirements are that there has to be a willful or knowing plan to commit fraud and that the wire communication has to be reasonably related to carrying out the plan.
The charge of wire fraud is routinely used to add to the severity of penalty for the fraud committed when interstate wire communications are involved. Criminal fraud committed without the use of interstate wire communications faces a less severe penalty than fraud that used wire communications at any phase of the fraudulent activity. Depending on the severity of the underlying fraud wire fraud is punishable with a prison sentence of up to 20 years or a fine or in some cases both. If the fraud victim is a financial institution then a prison sentence of up to 30 years or a fine of up to $1,000,000 may be imposed or both.
Wire fraud has recently been used to prosecute hackers and embezzlers. A hacker in Florida was indicted this year on wire fraud charges when he used the internet to hack the databases of several payment institutions and gained access to over 100 million credit and debit cards. A former director of finance in a New Orleans hotel chain has been charged with wire fraud because in embezzling millions from her company she used a computer system that was part of an interstate network. You can always look for your local criminal attorney at http://www.crimelawyers.org