A Mississauga man could face up to 20 years in a U.S. prison after pleading guilty to fraud charges in connection with an international scam that has bilked North American lawyers out of millions of dollars.
Emmanuel Ekhator, 42, a Nigerian citizen, was considered one of the ringleaders in the elaborate scheme that cheated Canadian and U.S. law firms of up to $70 million, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office Middle District of Pennsylvania.
Fraudsters would email lawyers claiming to be potential overseas clients — individuals or businesses — looking for legal assistance in collecting money they were owed for divorces, real estate or other legal matters.
It worked this way: the law firms agreed to represent the client, who was fake. A phony debtor would send a counterfeit check to the firm. Another person would pose as a bank employee when the lawyer’s office called to verify the number written on the checks. The lawyers would deposit the checks and take their cut then wire the remaining funds to the scammer, usually to Asia. When the checks were identified as counterfeit, it was too late, as the money had been paid out to the scammer already.
It’s not clear why lawyers were targeted or what details they DIDN’T check up on to ascertain that this was a scam but it does go to show you that EXPERTS can easily be fooled.
This is a form of a Nigerian scam where the advanced fee is a fraud.