Business of Law

Lawyer Victimized in $300K Check Fraud Is Charged with Money-Laundering

A lawyer is facing federal money-laundering charges after allegedly being victimized in a fraudulent cashier’s check scheme and then panicking and withdrawing some of the money once he found out the check was a fake.

Attorney Danilo Aguilar of Guam is apparently one of a number of lawyers who have been targeted in an international series of scams, according to a press release from Alicia Limtiaco published by the Saipan Tribune. Limtiaco is the U.S. Attorney for Guam, where Aguilar is being prosecuted on two counts of laundering monetary instruments.

In the scheme, a lawyer is contacted by a potential “client” he or she has never personally met who claims to be seeking legal services, then mailed a hefty cashier’s check as a retainer. However, if the lawyer takes the bait, deposits the cashier’s check and draws against it–or worse, “refunds” the balance to the “client” once the matter is concluded–the attorney will discover, too late, that it was a fake, as news accounts and law enforcement warnings about earlier scams have explained.

“Scams such as this are increasingly common, and the community should be very wary,” says Limtiaco in the release, adding: “This case will hopefully serve as a warning to everyone to be wary of con artists operating through the Internet, because involvement may cost you more than just money, it may also lead to criminal charges if you become aware of the fraudulent activity, but continue to participate.”

In Aguilar’s case, he admittedly panicked and withdrew money from the bank after finding out that he had been scammed, and is now negotiating a plea with the feds, reports the Saipan Tribune, relying on information from an agent for the Internal Revenue Service.

The agent tells the newspaper that the case began when a fake cashier’s for nearly $300,000 purportedly drawn on a Citibank account was deposited in mid-March 2009 into Aguilar’s business account at the Bank of Guam. The bank released the funds at the end of the month, at which point Aguilar had an employee cash a check for approximately $55,000 and obtain a bank check for not quite $234,000 payable to his law office, an earlier Saipan Tribune article reports.

Aguilar apparently deposited the $234,000 cashier’s check into his law firm’s First Hawaiian Bank account on April, 2, 2009 and drew on the funds there after finding out at some point, in some manner, that the purported Citibank cashier’s check wasn’t legitimate. The Bank of Guam reportedly discovered there was a problem with the purported Citibank cashier’s check around mid-May 2009.

None of the articles contains any comment from Aguilar or his lawyer, and he reportedly has not responded to at least one request for comment.

Related earlier coverage: “Lawyer Loses $240K in Internet Scam”

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