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E-mail Scam Still Snaring Lawyers

In September, in a post here entitled, "The Great Lawyer E-mail Scam," we wrote:

If you think lawyers are too savvy to fall prey to an e-mail scam, think again. One lawyer who fell victim to it estimates that the scam has bilked lawyers out of more than $1 million. That lawyer is now being sued by Wachovia Bank for the $190,000 he wired from his escrow account to a Korean bank on behalf of what he believed was a company in Taiwan.

That lawyer, Gregory Bartko, a securities lawyer in Atlanta, told his story to the Fulton County Daily Report and then on the podcast that I co-host, Lawyer2Lawyer. Now, another lawyer has fallen prey to the scam. Houston lawyer Richard T. Howell Jr. tells Texas Lawyer that his firm was bilked out of $182,500 by a client who contacted and hired him through e-mail. "I'm a capital 'D' Dumbass," he tells reporter Brenda Sapino Jeffreys, but says he is talking about it publicly to prevent other lawyers from making the same mistake.

Howell was contacted by e-mail by what he believed to be a Japanese company, Techno Design Industry, seeking to collect some $3.6 million in accounts from U.S. customers. The company signed a retainer agreement by which he would receive a third of any amounts he collected. Before he could file lawsuits against any of the customers, Techno notified him that one customer wanted to make a partial payment. He received what appeared to be an official Citibank check from the supposed customer in the amount of $367,500. After confirming through Citibank that it had paid the check, he disbursed $182,500 to Techno. Needless to say, the check was counterfeit.

Howell and his firm have sued Citibank, which denies any wrongdoing. Meanwhile, Howell knows he is not alone in falling victim to this, even among lawyers in his home state. He says he has spoken to another Texas lawyer who lost $300,000 to the e-mail scam.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on January 26, 2009 at 11:07 AM | Permalink | Comments (6)

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