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Bilked of $285K in Web Scam, Law Firm Faces Fla. Bar Probe re Its Related Financial Practices

Posted Jan 25, 2012 9:57 AM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Losing $285,000 in a scam by a virtual client has proven to be doubly painful for a Florida law firm.

In addition to losing the money, which federal prosecutors are trying to regain through a bank forfeiture action, the KEL Law Firm is also facing a Florida Bar inquiry about its related due-diligence and financial practices, reports the Orlando Sentinel.

Contacted over the phone by a purported client it never met, who gave his name as David Benson and claimed to be a business consultant seeking to sue a former boss, the law firm got in touch with the man "Benson" identified as his former boss, Fred Sanders. He sent the firm a purported settlement check, which KEL deposited into a law firm account.

The firm then wired a settlement check to its seeming client at Shinsei Bank in Japan. The entire amount was withdrawn before KEL realized that the "Sanders" settlement check—as well as a $500 retainer check from "Benson" had bounced, the newspaper recounts.

A law firm spokesman says KEL did nothing wrong but has tried to learn from the experience and is cooperating with investigators.

As detailed in earlier ABAJournal.com posts, a number of law firms have fallen victim to such flim-flams. They are characterized by virtual clients who never actually set foot in a law firm's offices, quick settlements that materialize soon after a matter is opened and a need for the law firm to send money to a foreign bank account.

Fake cashier's checks are also a hallmark of such schemes, and may seemingly clear a law firm's account only to be subsequently identified as fraudulent.

Related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "FBI Warns Law Firms: Beware of E-Mail Clients (and Counterfeit ‘Settlement’ Checks)"

ABAJournal.com: "Relieved Pa. Attorney Says He Dodged a Bullet in Alleged $32M Bad-Check Scam Targeting 80 Law Firms"

ABAJournal.com: "Reports: Fake Law Firm Site Targeting Lawyers in Real Estate Scam Uses Actual Law Firm Info, Photos"

ABAJournal.com: "Prosecutors Seek Forfeiture of $285K Lost When Orlando Law Firm Fell Victim to Scam"

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