Criminal Law Practitioner


This Article examines reverse affinity fraud, which is affinity fraud in the context of public hoaxes. In traditional affinity fraud the fraudster targets a vulnerable group, whereas in cases of public hoaxes the fraudster portrays herself as part of a vulnerable group and targets the well-meaning and sympathetic general public. This Article explores the mindset and characteristics of vulnerable fraudsters in reverse affinity frauds by analyzing the cases of Sherri Papini and Lacey Spears. Both Papini and Spears utilized social media and online giving sites to defraud the public, and their cases highlight the unique challenges prosecutors have in proving wire fraud in certain types of online giving scenarios. This Article concludes that while Papini and Spears can properly be characterized as vulnerable fraudsters, actually charging them with reverse affinity fraud is difficult due to the current lack of guidelines under federal law.