Business of Law

Law Firms Still Victimized in Fake-Check Web Scams; Trial Looms for Nigerian Accused in $32M Swindle

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Despite widespread publicity about law firms targeted in Internet and email scams that have siphoned five- and six-figure sums out of their bank accounts, some are still falling victim to the schemes.

The problem is, legitimate clients do business in much the same way as the scammers, often contacting counsel via the Internet or by email, the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.) notes.

A significant distinction, however, is that a cashier’s check sent by a fake client as a retainer or provided by an opposing party in a settlement paid to a scammer will be counterfeit. It can seemingly clear in a law firm’s trust account only to result in a huge deficiency when the fraud comes to light, after the law firm has paid the “client” his or her share of the settlement and/or refunded unearned fees. An earlier post provides more details of the process.

In the first case of its kind, a Nigerian man accused of swindling firms of some $32 million is facing trial later this year in federal district court in Pennsylvania.

But despite the indictment of Emmanuel Ekhator and others in a scheme that authorities say victimized 80 attorneys in four states, law firms are still being swindled, a prosecutor tells the Wall Street Journal Law Blog.

“We have this wide-ranging scam that continues even though we have made these arrests,” says Christy H. Fawcett, an assistant U.S. Attorney in Harrisburg. “We continue to have victims, both here and in Canada.”

Related coverage: “Lawyer Victimized in $300K Check Fraud Is Charged with Money-Laundering” “Relieved Pa. Attorney Says He Dodged a Bullet in Alleged $32M Bad-Check Scam Targeting 80 Law Firms” “Reports: Fake Law Firm Site Targeting Lawyers in Real Estate Scam Uses Actual Law Firm Info, Photos”

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