Nigerian extradited to US over $32 million law firm fraud
19 August 2011
Law firms in the USA have been hit by a series of international "collection" scams from Nigeria, the home of the 419 trick. And last week Emmanuel Ekhator, the chief suspect, was extradited to the USA to face trial.
Lawyers are licking their wounds after being taken for a long, long ride. It's estimated that some $32 million has been blagged from over 80 lawyers and law firms. And according to the indictment
from a Pennsylvania court, the successful scammers had attempted to get $100 million from over 300 lawyers and firms. So Ekhator gets points for ambition at least.
|Emmanuel Ekhator A 93 year-old widow looking for help unlocking a multi-million dollar legacy yesterday
The scam was so impressively simple it's a wonder how so many firms fell for it. According to the indictment, it took the following form:
(a) Conspirator A emails a law firm claiming to represent a foreign company, pretends to be attempting to collect money owed from a result of a transaction (say, a real estate deal) and asks for legal representation;
(b) The firm agrees to act and Conspirator B, pretending to be a representative of the entity owing the money, calls the firm and agrees to make payment;
(c) Conspirator B makes payment via a cheque, carefully forged to appear legitimate;
(d) The cheque is deposited and the firm makes a wire transfer to an account owned by the conspirators;
(e) The fake cheque bounces; and finally
(f) The law firm foams at the mouth and gnashes its teeth to have been taken in by such an incredibly simple trick.
Quite why firms paid out the cash before the cheques had cleared is unknown.