Law Firms

Lawyer is charged in alleged conspiracy to defraud law firms across the United States

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A Texas lawyer has been indicted in alleged conspiracy targeting law firms, businesses and lonely singles.

The lawyer, Perry Don Cortese of Little River, Texas, was charged along with a nonlawyer co-defendant, Priscilla Ann Ellis of Harker Heights, Texas, Texas Lawyer (sub. req.) reports. The Aug. 20 indictment (PDF) seeks forfeiture of at least $8.8 million. The Temple Daily Telegram and the Killeen Daily Herald also have stories.

The law firm scheme worked this way, according to the indictment: The defendants created phony companies that sought legal representation in legal disputes. They obtained money orders for low amounts, then altered them for much higher amounts that were made payable to law firms that had agreed to represent them.

The phony companies would then notify law firms they had settled the case, and would send the forged money orders to the law firms. Then the companies would ask the law firms to immediately send the fake companies all or part of the settlement proceeds.

The defendants are also accused of participating in a conspiracy that spoofed emails from legitimate businesses and that hacked into email accounts of individuals and businesses to fraudulently obtain wire transfers. The conspiracy also targeted users of Internet dating sites, feigning romantic relationships to persuade the targets to send funds, the indictment says.

Cortese and Ellis are accused of conspiracies to commit wire fraud and international money laundering. They were arrested on Aug. 31 and sent to Florida to face charges.

Updated at 11:45 a.m. to change “removed to Florida” wording in last paragraph noted by commenter.

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