Lawyers fall for Nigerian scam

Can’t make this stuff up… A Nigerian pulls a form of Nigerian scam from Canada on lawyers.

Former Mississauga man guilty in defrauding lawyers | Toronto Star.

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.

  6 comments for “Lawyers fall for Nigerian scam

  1. One Eyed Jack
    March 18, 2013 at 12:41 AM

    Your average lawyer is no more of an expert on scams than your average scientist is an expert on glassware production.

  2. Terrence A. Lee
    March 18, 2013 at 1:38 PM

    Somehow it is vaguely satisfying to see lawyers outshystered. Probably just my own immaturity raising it’s ugly head.

  3. TJ Green
    March 26, 2013 at 3:00 PM

    Doubtful story. All lawyers I know would ensure the check cleared before sending out funds.

  4. AMercer
    March 26, 2013 at 4:42 PM

    This one makes more sense than your average Nigerian Bank Scam. If I am understanding this correctly the scam involved presenting two parties to the lawyers. One party was the person suing and the other party was the person being sued. They would cook up a semi-believable story and then play it out with appropriate back and forth to satisfy the lawyers. Then they come to an “agreement” where the person being sued paid up. They sent the money (in form of a bad but altered enough to drag thru the system check) and the lawyers take their cut. They send the money on to their clients. Later they learn the check was bogus and both of those parties (which could have been easily played out by the same person) are gone.

    This is a much more believable scenario than most victims fall for. I mean there must be lawyers in the U.S. that take on cases overseas. And I bet there are many times they take on these cases and never actually meet their clients face to face. Too expensive to meet face to face. So they will rely on phone, email, Skype, and so forth. Probably get situations all the time where a cash settlement takes care of the problem and that cash settlement is probably sent to the lawyers in the form of a check. From there is would be standard business to cash the check, take out the fees, and pass the rest to the client. This sounds like a very ripe area for these check cashing scammers to work in.

    I feel the biggest mistake the lawyers made in all of this was wiring the money. Of course, that could also be a standard practice as well.

  5. March 26, 2013 at 6:20 PM

    I’m with TJ on this. Most people, especially experienced business people, would wait for the cheque to clear first. What’s the rush, especially when you’ve had no prior dealings with the other party to form a basis for trust?

    I did run a very successful anti-scam once, and had the scammers strung along for 7 weeks, thinking they had found a real mark. I posted the results of my escapade on Scamorama.

  6. March 27, 2013 at 4:09 PM

    Ah, thanks for explaining how this scam works in detail, AMercer. The lawyer’s ‘client’ in this case is actually one of the scammers, so he winds up with no fee, and is short what he sent to the ‘client’. Still though, as I said above, a lawyer with a decent amount of business acumen would wait for the cheque to clear first. Then he/she would only have been done out of their fee/wasted their time and a few e-mails or calls. But yeah, greed and self-certainty will get you every time 🙂

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