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Lawyer Beware: Scam Lures Hungry Jobseekers

Columbia Law School grad Arin Greenwood was 33 and desperate for a job. Unable to pay rent, she had just moved from D.C. back to her parents' house in Rhode Island. Then she received an e-mail in response to a Craigslist job ad she'd replied to a week earlier. It offered her the opportunity to earn $14,000 a month for two months. All she had to do to qualify was to respond with a statement "that speaks to your ability to fanatically devote your entire intellectual acumen to this endeavor." The e-mail struck Greenwood as "extremely weird," but she did as instructed nevertheless.

Soon after, Greenwood received an employment contract by e-mail, promising the first month's pay in two-and-a-half weeks. After signing it, she was given a company e-mail account, invited to participate in a conference call explaining the company's mission -- to create a global investing Web site -- and given her first assignment. And she learned she was not alone -- she was part of a team that included several other lawyers along with researchers, writers, computer programmers and even a mathematician. Greenwood remained uneasy but reassured herself with the thought, "Who indeed would be stupid or brazen enough to hire all these lawyers and then cheat them out of money?"

But when payday came, the pay did not. From there, the scam quickly unraveled. The man who had led the conference call, chief operating officer Gerald Edward, appeared not to exist. In his place, Greenwood came to suspect, stood John McDonald, a man in his late 20s or early 30s who may or may not have been arrested once for securities fraud. And as Greenwood investigated McDonald, she arrived at a surprising conclusion about why McDonald had concocted the scheme, coupled with an ironic twist that would have defeated him from the outset.

Greenwood tells the whole story and its surprising ending last week in her Washington City Paper piece, Wanted: Gullible Lawyers. If it reads like fiction, perhaps that is because Greenwood is, besides a lawyer, also a novelist and writer.

[Hat tip to Above the Law.]

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on September 12, 2007 at 04:52 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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