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Date First Reported: December 2010

Primary Name Associated: Melissa Andersen

Description of Potential Fraud:

fraud-warning

This post contains the amazing back-and-forth email exchange between a lawyer and a fraudster purporting to be Melissa Cho Anderson that occurred over the course of three weeks. The lawyer involved knew it was a scam from the start but played along with the fraudster. After a story that was a long and winding road involving HIV, bad burns and other interesting twists and turns, a bad cheque was delivered to the lawyer’s office along with instructions to wire funds overseas.

This scam was first seen in December 2010, but has reappeared as of August 2011.

See the post on the Siam Rai fraud for another amazing back-and-forth email exchange between a fraudster and a lawyer.

The below email exchange highlights the extent to which fraudsters are willing to engage lawyers in a discussion and how much detail they will provide in an attempt to sound legitimate and dupe a lawyer.


Attn: Attorney XXXXXXXXXXX,

I would like to make a request for your assistance in a matter that had been settled out of court, as I am presently away from Canada.

Essentially, it is important to mention that I am HIV+ patient as a result of an unfaithfulness on the part of my ex husband, Mr Bill Langerak. Recalling my former relationship with Mr Bill Langerak, I could confirm to you that I was pregnant to him in June 2009.

Unfortunately, Mr Langerak did not disclose his HIV+ status to me. It was during my antenatal check up that it was revealed I had already been infected with sexually transmitted disease (STD). But considering my pregnancy status at the time, the treatment for the STD could not also be concluded as quickly as possible.

In the meantime, subsequent appointments of my antenatal check up indicated a complicated situation and it was further showed that the pregnancy has been affected. As a result, different tests {among which are the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) & Western Blot Test} were conducted on me with all tests confirmed that I am HIV+.

Regrettably, it was at this stage that Mr Langerak apologized to my family for infecting me with the virus disease, which he was aware of as far back as 2004. The sad news was that my pregnancy was later
aborted as it was confirmed that the unborn baby has also been infected with the virus.

However, considering the stigma of the disease and the position of my ex husband, this is why he pleaded with my family that we should ruled out litigation in the States to avoid conflict of interest towards an amicable settlement of the $380,500 in total damages, which he agreed with my family.

The latest development is that my ex husband has just informed me that he has made adequate arrangement with his paying bank in the States to make first payment to the value of US$250,000 out of the agreed $380,500 in damages to me.

Mention should be made here that I am still traumatized of an experience too strong in effect to be forgotten, similar to an offender on death row awaiting execution, which is why my family then recommend that I need to change environment. The result then explains my recent journey to Japan.

In a nutshell, I would be glad if you could kindly notify me of your interest to represent me on this matter. I would also be interested to know your professional fee towards the requested service.

Your kind response will be gladly appreciated.

Yours truly,
Ms Melissa Andersen
Tokyo, Japan.
Phone: +81-03-3342-651
Email: [email protected]


Dear Ms. Andersen:

Thank you for your enquiry.

I’m very sorry to hear about your unfortunate turn of events.

I would be happy to discuss this matter with you and assist you with the completion of your settlement arrangements.

In this regard, there is quite a bit of information that I would need from you, and it may be more efficient if we had a conversation over the telephone.

In terms of my professional fees, it is a function of the amount of time spent on a matter. My hourly rate is $450 per hour and after we have an initial conversation, I would be able to better estimate how much time your representation may require.

I understand that you are in Tokyo at the moment and that you are 14 hours ahead of Toronto time.

My contact information is below; please let me know when you would like to arrange for a telephone call.

To read the subsequent messages between the lawyer and the fraudster click


Thank you for your kind response.

Regarding your message, please note that your proposed service fee is accepted by me. I would be glad to know the result of your calculation on the hourly rate of $450 per hour if my ex husband could be able to conclude his first payment of US$250,000 out of the damages to your law firm by next week Thursday (November 25th).

However, considering the time difference between Canada and Japan as well as for convenience on my part, I would kindly request that you should permit the use of this medium as our means of communication at least for now. Apparently, as I had mentioned earlier in my previous messages, my ex husband has ruled out litigation as he did not want his HIV positive status to be made public, which we both agreed to protect our private lives. This also means that this particular matter would only involves receiving the damages from my ex-husband and transmitting the net balance to me in Japan after deducting your service fee.

Unfortunately, I am yet to open my personal bank account here in Japan due to paper work but i intend to discuss the issue of the net balance with my Japanese employer where i am presently working as temporary
staff to receive the net balance on my behalf here in Japan after your law firm confirms the first payment of $250,000 from my ex husband.

In the meantime, I would like to inform you that my ex husband, Mr Bill Langerak has requested that my appointed attorney should provide him with the information given below, as he has just confirmed that his first payment of $250,000 will be made out by bank draft:

(1) The beneficiary name in which the bank draft of $250,000 would be made out (i.e. whether the draft should be written in your name or in your law firm name).

(2) The mailing address where the bank draft will be delivered.

In what follows, I would be glad to receive the requested payment information given above at the soonest, which I would then forward to Mr Bill Langerak to enable him go ahead with the first payment of US$250,000 out of the $380,500 he awarded in damages to me.

To this end, I look forward to receiving your kind response.

Thank you and best regards,


Ms. Andersen:

Thank you for your email.

Before we establish a solicitor-client relationship and before I can agree to accept your representation, I would need to receive some clarification on a few items.

To begin with, I would need you to sign my standard retainer agreement, and in connection with this, I would need some personal information from you such as your full legal name, date of birth, address and phone numbers in Canada, address and phone numbers in Japan, your occupation, copies of two forms of photo id (this would need to be notarized), information on how you were referred to my office.

Also, apart from merely receiving and sending out funds, I am not clear on exactly what legal work you require me to complete. I presume your ex husband will not merely deliver funds without you executing and delivering a full and final release. Perhaps these funds will be delivered to me in escrow? Does your ex husband have a lawyer? Can you provide me with this lawyer’s contact information? Can you provide me with contact information for your ex husband?

If your ex husband is not concerned about receiving a release and does not have a lawyer, then may I recommend that he simply send the funds directly to you, thus saving you the unnecessary cost of engaging a lawyer.

Any funds delivered to my office are typically made payable to my firm in trust (i.e., XXXXXXXXX Law Office In Trust), at the address below, however, before we discuss these details we should address the other issues first.

I look forward to hearing back from you.


Further to your latest message, I would like to request your law office to assist me regarding my service before you on compassionate grounds in view of my HIV positive status with my ex husband. As a result, your request to furnish you with all our personal information at this stage could be interpreted as digging into our private lives yet litigation has been ruled out.

In the meantime, mention should be made here that my ex husband is not aware that I have just got a temporary job although without the necessary documentation, which could have afforded me an opportunity to open a bank account in Japan. Indeed, it was this development that earlier made my ex husband to advise me to seek help from an attorney in Canada who could help me receive the first payment of $250,000 on my behalf in trust pending the time I would be able to have my way in Japan.

To be honest with you, due to the delay in securing a job in Japan, I had been forced to appeal to my ex husband to provide me with some fund out of the damages, as I planned to be doing business between
Canada and Japan. Therefore, I am afraid to tell my ex husband now that I have just secured a temporary job, as i do not want him to change his mind towards this first payment given the fact that he has
respect for lawyers.

On receipt of the requested information to purchase the bank draft, my ex husband has told me that he would accompany a covering letter with the draft as well as his contact information on it, which would
include his phone and fax numbers, as he said the covering letter would enable you to acknowledge the receipt of his postal delivery thereby safeguarding against the lost, misplaced or stolen of the
draft.

However, permit me to say that I have attached herewith a notarized copy of my photograph and other requested information as given below:

Full name: Melissa Cho ANDERSEN
Date of birth: 1968-02-19
Occupation: Casual worker

Consequently, please note that all needed information about me in Japan would be given to your law office including the company name and address in Japan where I am presently working on part time basis as
well as the bank details and address of the company will be furnished to you when the issue of the net balance comes up.

To this end, kindly confirm if i should advise my ex husband to proceed with the purchase of the bank draft of $250,000 payable to:
“XXXXXXX Law Office In Trust” and mailed to: XXXXXX Legal Professional Corporation.

Thank you and best regards,


Dear Ms. Melissa Cho Andersen:

Thank you for your email below.

I’m very sorry if my queries appeared to be an intrusion into your private life. This was not my intent I assure you.

I can see now the very urgent need you must have to secure the bank draft from your ex husband Mr Bill Langerak. To that end, I say, yes, let’s proceed with god speed and secure the draft from Mr Bill Langerak before he changes his mind.

Please send me the draft immediately and we can worry about legal and regulatory compliance some other time.

Ms. Melissa Cho Andersen, I can assure you I am a very compassionate person and I must know that I can bring about some positive outcome to this very terrible situation you now find yourself in. Although I have never had any experience with the HIV virus, I have come into contact with the common cold virus many times and I can only imagine how you must be suffering. Have you ever tried cold-fx? Anyway, we can discuss this another time. As for now, I must go and prepare my office to receive Mr Bill Langerak’s payment.

I am honoured and humbled that you have selected my good office to take part in this humanitarian effort and for that I am most grateful.


Further to your requested fees of $2,000 to cover your service rendered as well as bank charges regarding the matter at hand, I would like to offer you 10% ($25,000) to be deducted from the first payment of damages offered by my ex husband considering your quality professionalism to a client.

Forgive me, attorney, to say that your requested fee of $2,000 is not acceptable to me and I would be glad if you could not reject my offered 10% ($25,000) to you. I understand that you really want to help me in view of my health condition but not at the expense of your law firm. You are obliged to pay your staff as well as taking care of your administrative expenses. It is difficult to quantify the value of your time or effort so far taken towards this matter but the bank charges that will be incurred to transfer the net balance
telegraphically from Canada to Japan will be large enough for you to bear alone.

I look forward to receiving your acceptance to my offered 10% ($25,000) thereby leaving $225,000 as net balance to be transferred to me through my employer bank account in Japan.

Thank you and best regards,

Dear Ms. Andersen:

I am at a loss for words. I am most humbled and grateful for your very kind and generous offer.

I have never encountered a person such as yourself before. I believe you must be an angel; an angel sent to minister to me during this most holy season that is coming upon us.

I thank you for the care and concern you are demonstrating to my practice and office. You are truly a saint among women, and I trust that karma will not forget you in the days and years ahead. God bless you Ms. Anderson. God bless you indeed!

So in response to your wonderful and most glorious offer, I say yes. I say yes and amen.

I do wish to raise one concern I have with you. Do you believe that you can trust your employer to receive such a large sum of money and to release same to you? Would you like some assistance in order to document this? Perhaps a Japanese lawyer would be best to advise you. Just to make sure that your employer does not take advantage of you. Please let me know if you need any assistance in this regard. You are such a kind woman and I would hate to see anyone take advantage of you.

I look forward to completing this matter for you.


Hope you had a wonderful weekend in Canada.

I would like to thank you for accepting my offer towards your service while awaiting the receipt of the first payment out of the damages from my ex husband to your law office.

In the meantime, I could confirm to you that the net balance to be sent to me in Japan will be in safe hands. As a matter of fact, one of the wives of the directors where I am presently working on part time
is a close friend and I must admit that Asian people have a different ways of life based on their religion and culture as compared to the Western countries.

To this end, I would update you as soon as my ex husband informs me that the draft has been dispatched to your mailing address, as this would also afford me an opportunity to request from my employer their
bank account which I would use to receive the net balance from your law firm.

Thank you and best regards


After much delay, my ex husband has confirmed that a check of $249,998 would be delivered to your law office on Thursday December 2nd.

In the meantime, please accept my apology for any inconvenience the delay of the payment might have caused. I would be glad to receive your confirmation as soon as the check is delivered to your law
office.

Thank you and best regards,


Dear Ms. Andersen:

I confirm that we received a cheque from Mr. Langerak in today’s mail.

The cheque is payable to my firm in trust in the amount of $249,998.21.

Kindly provide me with the details of where the monies are to be delivered so may begin our necessary processes.


Thank you for your update.

In response to your latest message, please find below the account information of my employer in Japan for the receipt of the net balance after deducting your 10% ($25,000) fees from the fund received:

Account Information:

Bank Name: JOYO BANK
Branch Name: Head Branch
BANK ADDRESS: 2-5-5, Minami-machi Mito, Ibaraki 310-0021, Japan
SWIFT CODE: JOYOJPJT
BRANCH CODE: 0130
BANK TELEPHONE: +81-29-231-2151
Account Name: JOEBRAND CO. LTD
Account Number: 004-2106023
Company Address: Obayashi BLD 1 Floor 2-4-27 Miya-Machi Mito Shi
Ibaraki Ken,Japan.
Company Telephone: +81-29-226-3324

I would be glad to receive your copy of the transmitted report regarding the wire transfer payment of the net balance, for record purposes.

Once again, please accept my grateful thanks for rendering the requested service on my behalf in Canada. It is highly appreciated.


Dear Ms. Andersen

Thank you for this information.

The cheque that your ex-husband sent us was not a bank draft like he promised, but rather it is just an ordinary cheque.  Accordingly, we must have the funds verified before we can proceed.  As you may or may not know, when monies from an unknown source are received in our office (i.e., in this case from Mr. Bill Langerak), we need to initiate a process known as Secure Cheque Authentication Method (aka SCAM).  Essentially, Mr. Bill Langerak’s cheque is now part of the SCAM protocol and we cannot release funds so long as a SCAM is in progress.  At this point we are waiting for the issuing bank to authenticate, confirm, validate, ratify and approve the cheque.  A SCAM can take some time to complete; so we appreciate your patience.  I will keep you updated on the results of the SCAM once I have them.
Thanks and best regards,


Dear Ms. Andersen
As is the case with all good things in life; everything eventually comes to an end.  Alas, the SCAM is now over.  We just received confirmation that the cheque delivered to our office is in fact fraudulent.

I confirm that this also terminates our involvement in this matter. 

Thank you once again for selecting my office to participate in this effort and for the entertainment this exchange has generated for me and my office.
I wish you all the very best in your future endeavors. 

…snip…

If you have been targeted by this fraud or a similar fraud, please forward any of the emails you have received to [email protected].

If you have been successfully duped, please immediately notify LAWPRO (instructions on how are here), as there may be a claim against you.

Further fraud prevention information and resources are available on the practicePRO Fraud page (www.practicepro.ca/fraud), including the Fraud Fact Sheet, a handy reference for lawyers and law firm staff that describes the common frauds and the red flags that can help identify them.