The U.S. Government did not always have generalized prosecution powers. Actually, most criminal prosecution was originally intended to be handled under the police powers of the individual states. However, as is the case with most government initiatives, the federal Government’s authority in this area grew to an astounding level. This holds true for prosecutions under the wire fraud statute as well.
Under federal law, activity that affects interstate commerce may be criminalized under the Constitution based upon their interference with such commerce. While the language may seem stilted and innocuous, it is very powerful. Imagine how much activity affects interstate commerce. Every store that ships or receives property across state lines is subject to federal jurisdiction. Further, all activity through the mail and phone lines are also subject to that jurisdiction.
It is this expansive jurisdictional rubric which has created one of the broadest categories of white collar prosecutions: Wire Fraud.
For example, if a person posts a picture of a Lamborghini on Ebay and solicits a payment of $35,000 via Ebay, such a transaction would be legal. However, if that person never had a Lamborghini to sell and takes off with the money, that person has committed wire fraud in two separate ways. One by posting a misleading photo and, two, by receiving payment. Both of these acts occurred online and would be prosecutable under 18 USC 1343.
Learn more: White Collar Criminal Defense