Re: Wire fraud
"Am I right in thinking wire fraud covers just about anything involving money and a state boundary, so acts as a catch-all charge even if the authorities can't think of anything else to charge you with?"
Not quite, money doesn't actually need to be involved. Wire fraud is literally anything involving any kind of fraud or planning for fraud when at some point any communication involving wires, radio or electronic communication crosses state or country boundaries. Mail fraud covers everything else, when either communication or property crosses boundaries in physical form. The original legislation dates back to the '40s and '50s when it might have made more sense, but these days it's virtually impossible to commit any crime without also being guilty of wire fraud. Specifically:
"Whoever, having devised or intending to devise any scheme or artifice to defraud, or for obtaining money or property by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises, transmits or causes to be transmitted by means of wire, radio, or television communication in interstate or foreign commerce, any writings, signs, signals, pictures, or sounds for the purpose of executing such scheme or artifice"
If you so much as visit a website or check google maps, you've transmitted a signal across state lines. Do so while thinking about maybe coming up with a plan to commit any kind of con, and you're guilty of wire fraud.