Brief Fact Summary. The Defendant, Richard Czubinski (Defendant), appealed his jury conviction on nine counts of wire fraud and four counts of computer fraud in connection with his improper use of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) computer database.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. To support a conviction for wire fraud, the government must prove: (1) the defendant’s knowing and willing participation in a scheme or artifice to defraud with the specific intent to defraud and (2) the use of interstate wire communications in furtherance of the scheme. Additionally, to be in violation of Section:1034(a)(4) of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (the Act), a defendant must be found to have knowingly and with the intent to defraud, accessed a Federal interest computer without authorization, or exceeded authorized access and by means of such conduct furthered the intended fraud and obtained anything of value.
Issue. Can the Defendant’s jury convictions on charges of wire and computer fraud stand?
Held. The jury convictions on counts of wire and computer fraud cannot stand.
The government failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the Defendant willfully participated in a scheme to defraud within the meaning of the wire fraud statute. Without evidence that the Defendant used or intended to use the taxpayer information, beyond mere browsing, an intent to deprive cannot be proven and, as a result, a scheme to defraud is not shown. Further, although the Defendant clearly committed wrongdoing, his conviction cannot stand because his conduct did not deprive the public of its rights to the employee’s honest services.
The Defendant also did not violate the Act because his searches of taxpayer return information did not satisfy the statutory requirement that he obtain “anything of value.”
Discussion. In the conclusion to the case, the First Circuit Court of Appeals noted that the computer and wire fraud statutes can be both a blessing and a curse. The court stated that the statutes can be used to halt fraudulent schemes in the very early inchoate stage. However, as happened in the case before the court, the statutes are often used to prosecute morally reprehensible behavior that is, nevertheless, not felonious.