Lawyer-targeting fraudster pleads guilty

By James Barnes

15 March 2013 at 11:34 BST

A man who cheated Canadian and US law firms out of millions of dollars faces up to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to a sophisticated international scam.

Law firm scammer pleads guilty

The Toronto Star reports that 42-year-old Emmanuel Ekhator, a Nigerian citizen, was considered to be a ringleader in the scheme which conned North American lawyers out of $70 million, according to US Attorney’s Office Middle District of Pennsylvania.

Counterfeit cheques

In the scheme, emails would be sent to lawyers from fake overseas clients looking for legal advice. Once the firm agreed to represent the fake client, a phony debtor would offer to pay and send a counterfeit cheque to the lawyer.
In the next stage, another fraudster would pose as a bank employee so that when the lawyer’s office called they could verify the number written on the cheques. Lawyers would then cash the cheque, take a cut for their legal fee and wire the remaining funds to the fraudster overseas, usually in Asia.
Lawyers would only be aware of the fraud when the cheques were returned as counterfeit.

Sophisticated scam

Barbara Nevin with the Minneapolis firm Milavetz Gallop & Milavetz commented: ‘It was a very sophisticated scam. You have someone purporting to be a client and they have other people that are in this with them pretending to be insurance adjusters.’
Mr Ekhator had sought refugee status in Canada but was arrested in Nigeria in 2010 and extradited to the US the following year. According to the report, he took responsibility for losses of $20m in his guilty plea.


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