We have had calls from two Ontario lawyers in the last week who have been contacted by the purported Marsha Garrison of Action Bonding & Insurance Services regarding what seems to be a debt collection scam.
The fraudster claims there is a debt owing by Cormana Video, Inc. a Toronto business. When one lawyer’s firm sent a demand letter they received a cheque for just under $250,000 from an account purportedly belonging to an outfit known as Intermerica Corporation which advised that it had been directed to liquidate assets of Cormana that were under its control.
There is a real company called Action Bonding & Insurance, and a real Marsha Garrison. When contacted by a lawyer who looked up the company details on Google, Ms Garrison advised that someone has been using her name in the U.S., Canada and parts of Europe since at least May of this year. She has reported the matter to authorities in the U.S., including the FBI.
Ms Garrison has given LAWPRO permission to give out her business phone number, should any lawyer wish to confirm with her that attempts to retain them for the above noted debt collection are fraudulent. She can be reached at (714) 238-9038.
Below is a transcript of the communication between a lawyer (who referred the matter to another lawyer) and the fraudster:
From: Marsha Garrison firstname.lastname@example.org
Sent: June-24-11 6:06 AM
Subject: Legal Help Needed
I am writing on behalf of Action Bonding & Insurance Services, Inc. to request your possible representation on a breach of contractILitigation case in matters concerning Action Bonding & Insurance Services, Inc. and a client in your state.
Our legal representative wont be able to represent us on this case because it is out of their jurisdiction.
We believe that this case is within your jurisdictiori which is why we are requesting your legal assistance and possible representation. Do let us know your position in this case, as we look forward to a prompt response from you.
Action Bonding & Insurance Services, Inc.
4081 E. La Palma Avenue, #B
Anaheim, CA 92807
We are not able to help you but we might be able to refer you. Can you give me a brief synopsis regarding what the case is about and how much is at stake.
We provided surety bond services for freight shipping from pick up through safe delivery. According to the terms ofthe contract agreement, obligee is fully responsible for replacement cost of damaged cargo during shipping. obligee is at default as some items were broken and damaged with cost amounting to $235,560. Upon investigation,we discovered that obligee was responsible. We informed obligee of this and they agreed to pay for damages. Since then we have made several contacts on behalf of principal, to obligee demanding for payments. They informed us that payment request has been approved by their company and still awaits remittance by their accounting department.
I will be glad if you can refer us.
Call XXXXXXXXXX, a lawyer in Toronto. I am copying him with this email. He is aware of your problem and thinks he can help you.
Good day and thank you for your prompt response. We appreciate your willingness to render services as requested. We understand that a conflict check has to be done before the possibility of your representation can be determined.
To enable you carry out a conflict check, do find as listed below details of obligee in your
Cormana Video Inc
65 Ontario, Toronto, ON, M5A2V1
In anticipation that there is no conflict, I will provide further details on our claims. We provided surety bond services for freight shipping from pick up through safe delivery between M.T.TORIMATSU CO LTD 2-18, Butsuryu-Center, Tsubame-shi, Niigata, Japan Zip: 9591277 herein referred to as “Principal” and Cormana Video Inc 65 Ontario, Toronto, ON, M5A2V1 shipper herein referred to as “Obligee”.
According to the terms of the contract agreement, obligee is fully responsible for replacement cost of damaged cargo during shipping. obligee is at default as some items were broken and damaged with cost amounting to $235,560. Upon investigation, we discovered that obligee was responsible. We informed obligee of this and they agreed to pay for damages.
Since then we have made several contacts on behalf of principal, to obligee demanding for payments. They informed us that payment request has been approved by their company and still awaits remittance by their accounting department.
We have been doing business with obligee for some years now and we wouldn’t want this to come between the great business relationship that we have built. We believe they will comply with payment demands. On the contrary our concern is that they may not meet payment deadline.
We do not want this matter to get to litigation because it is time consuming, expensive and damaging to business relationship. We believe that onCE our presence is established in your state via a legal representative, obligee will comply with payment demands to avoid legal action.
It is important that you email me a copy of your standard retainer agreement for my review.
It is imperative that i receive a copy of your retainer agreement on or before June 29th
Thank you very much and I await receipt of your standard retainer agreement.
I have now had an opportunity to review your email of last evening and wish to propose a course of action to be followed.
In view of your comments that Cormana Video Inc may pay the apparent amount owing of $235,560 USD with some prodding in the form of a lawyer’s demand letter,1 would respectfully suggest that a formal litigation retainer agreement might not be necessary. Only a limited retainer agreement in the form of this email would be required. However, if Cormana does not pay then there will obviously have to be a litigation retainer agreement. A litigation retainer agreement would obligate my firm to do a much more detailed analysis of the matter in terms of the contract, the parties, jurisdiction, limitation of periods, etc.
Assuming that you (ie. Action Bonding & Insurance Services Inc.) have authority on behalf of M.T.Torimatsu Co Ltd, your principal, I would suggest that you now agree to a limited retainer of my firm to fax and email a demand letter to Cormana in the form attached hereto. If the money is paid that would be the end of the matter. If the money is not paid I would then discuss with you the provisions of a litigation retainer agreement.
In terms of the initial limited retainer agreement, which is essentially the forwarding of a demand letter, if you and your principal are agreeable I would ask that you forward a retainer amount of $X,000 plus HST by way of transmission to my firm’s trust account.
If the $235,560.00 USD is paid as a result of the demand letter, that will be the full extent of my firm’s fees and disbursements. If the $235, 560.00 USD is not paid, then the $5,650 (less the amount of my time involved in connection with the collection letter which I anticipate to be in the range of a couple ofthousand dollars at my hourly rate of $550) will be utilized towards the cost of the future litigation. If the above and the attached demand letter meet with your approval, please confirm by return email and forward the $5,650. If you have any questions of concerns please email or call me.
Thank you very much for your willingness to render your services and I apologize for the delay in our response as we have been carefully reviewing the following document. We are in agreement and accept the foregoing terms and conditions in the email you sent to us.
We have been having talks with our client and we brought the possibility of litigation to their attention. They informed us that their insurance company will finalize the claim and issue payment not later than the 30th of July 2011. We instructed that further correspondence including payment be made via our legal representative (your firm).
However we do not intend to introduce any legal pressure unless the deadline of the 30th is breached, in this case we ask that you do not contact them unless the deadline is breached.
We hope you understand our position as we intend to introduce litigation as a last resort.
Your firms contact information was provided to our customer as;
Let me know if this information is correct as payment should definitely be made as provided.
Further more your firm retainer fees will be paid by our client along with the balance due.
We will provide any further update on this case.
We await your urgent acknowledgment as time is of the essence.
Thank you very much for your services.
After the demand was sent, the following letter arrived at the lawyer’s office:
This is to officially inform you that we (Intermerica Corporation); have been directed to forward funds to you on behalf of one of our customers-Cormana Video, Inc., in conjunction with Debt money owed to your client, Marsha Garrison of Action Bonding & Insurance Services, Inc.
We are an investment management firm and Cormana Video, Inc has directed that we liquidate some of their stocks / shares (financial Investments / Assets), managed by our Institution, to enable them utilize the proceeds derived from the sale, to cater for all the liability owed to your client.
You are advised to get in touch with one of our Logistic Officer (Mr. Martins Acker), via his email address: email@example.com or by telephone at his direct telephone #: 1-954-482-9747, to enable him to facilitate the payment.
Be aware that we do not release funds to third party, until some pertinent information has been satisfactorily provided to us. Our days of operation are Monday to Friday, between the hours of 9:30am to 7:30pm (EST).
Please direct all further correspondence to our Logistics Officer, whose information is stated above for prompt attention.
A week later Marsha Garrison emailed again:
How are you doing today, hope you are alright. I just want you to know that the total sum the obligee will be paying is $750,000.00. This will be paid in three installments, do let us know the first installment received.
Will do, although I thought the amount owing was $235,560 USD. Why the difference?
I am sorry for the delay. The obligee has sent some part of what they owe to you. The check was issued in your Law Firm Name.
The amount issued is $249,948.90 CAD. You will receive the check on August 17, 2011. Kindly keep me informed once you do.
Thank you and have a lovely day.
At that point a cheque for $249,948 arrived at the lawyer’s office, and the lawyer contacted LAWPRO.
How to handle a real or suspected fraud (more…)