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.

Tip Off ROF


FrankW 19 August 11 13:32

Can anyone explain why the firms didn't wait for the cheques to clear (or rather, to bounce)?

Anonymous 19 August 11 15:04

The cheques probably did clear. The problem is that cheques from foreign banks can be recalled months later so here is what probably happened:
1. Conspirator B promises to pay be cheque;
2. Law firm receives cheque (from foreign bank account);
3. Cheque clears in law firm account;
4. Law firm unwittingly don't appreciate that a cheque can be recalled by foreign bank at a later date and make wire transfer to Conspirator A (which unlike a foreign cheque cannot be recalled);
5. cheque payment is recalled by foreign bank;
6. partners at law firm "foam at the mouth"....