Collaborative family law agreement collection scam by Beverly Kawashima targets US lawyers

January 17, 2011 By: Dan Pinnington Category: Fraud warning

Last week we did a post about an Ontario lawyer that exchanged emails with the purported Beverly Kawashima. From the calls and emails we received it now appears that several other Ontario lawyers have been contacted, as has a lawyer in Alberta.

Also in response to that post, lawyers in California (two of them), Massachusetts, North Carolina and Texas have advised us that they have been targeted as well. In one case a lawyer was contacted through a profile listing on Avvo. The email conversation with one of those lawyers is reproduced below, along with the documents that were provided as background for the matter: a passport, a collaborative family law agreement, a divorce decree and an entitlement settlement agreement.

The messages and documents on this fraud are virtually identical to those that other lawyers have received recently on collaborative family law agreement scams from the purported Kathy Cheung and Peggy Higashi.

The email conversation with one of U.S. lawyers that was contacted was as follows:

Jan 7
Message from “Beverly Kawashima Beverly Kawashima”
Subject: Your Urgent Reply Is Needed.
Dear Counsel,

My name is Beverly Kawashima. I am contacting your firm in regards to a divorce settlement with my ex husband Mackenzie Kawashima who resides in your jurisdiction.

I am currently working in S.Korea. We had an out of court agreement (Collaborative Law Agreement) for him to pay $750,500.00 plus legal fees. He has only paid me $251,500.00 since.I am hereby seeking your firm`s assistance in collecting the balance from him.

He has agreed already to pay me the balance but it is my belief that a Law firm like yours is needed to help me collect/enforce payment from my ex-husband or litigate this matter if he fails to pay as promised.

Your’s truly,
Beverly Kawashima

Jan 7
Ms. Kawashima,  I would be interested in representing you in this matter.  I need to discuss this with you further. Kindly contact me by phone.

Jan 8
Thank you for your prompt response. Currently am living in S.Korea for an assignment and Mr Mackenzie Kawashima live in USA. I tried calling a couple of times and with the time difference(+13hrs EST) it is a little bit difficult to gauge the best time to reach you vice verse.
We agreed under this Collaborative Law Agreement for a one time cash settlement of $750,500.00 usd to his credit, he has paid me $251,500.00 usd. He is aware of my intention to seek legal actions. I will be pleased to provide further information on this matter on request.

I expect this to be a non litigation matter. I have already advised him I am planning on retaining your firm. If possible please send me a retainer agreement so that we can proceed. Also send me the payment information of your firm just in case my ex-husband wants to make the full payment he owes payment without further delays or possible litigation. Thank you and have a pleasant day.

Beverly Kawashima.

Kawashima settlement agreement
Kawashima Divorce Decree
Kawashima collaborative agreement

Jan 10
Dear Counsel,

Since your last mail,we have not gotten any mail from you.Please if you are not interested do indicate it here immediately.

But if you know you can handle my case do send me a retainer agreement so that we can proceed. Also send me the payment information of your firm just in case my ex-husband wants to make the full payment he owes payment without further delays or possible litigation. Thank you and have a pleasant day.

Beverly Kawashima

Jan 13
Subject: Please can you acknowledge receipt of the signed agreement. ……………..
Please can you acknowledge receipt of the signed agreement. I am looking for a way forward on this matter. and I am unanimously content with the details portrayed on the agreement. Find the attached signed
page of the agreement received from your firm.

For the remittance of the retainer, Please send me the name and address(not.p.o.box) you want the retainer issue to , I have informed Mr. Kawashima that I am working with your firm in regard to the issue.
He went on to ask for extra time period to set up the payment to be made, which I feel inclined to grant to maintain a decent relationship, giving him till next week to produce the monies and remit payment.

Nonetheless, after the grace time expires, full measures must be initiated against Kawashima.Therefore, till the time granting expires, you should not make contact to Kawashima, unless advised by me, to do so. Also, and the payment send by Kawashima, that will be solely controlled by you, as my attorney, for any and all payment that will be made to and secured in the trust account. thank you for your professional assistance. I await your acknowledgment of this email

Best Regards,
Beverly Kawashima.

This appears to be a bad cheque scam (for details on how these work see this earlier AvoidAClaim post)

If you have been targeted by this fraud, please forward any of the emails you have received to fraudinfo@lawpro.ca.

Call LAWPRO at 1-800-410-1013 (416-598-5899) if you suspect you are acting on a matter that appears like it might be a fraud. We will talk you through the common fraud scenarios we are seeing and help you spot red flags that may indicate you are being duped. This will help you ask appropriate questions of your client to determine if the matter is legitimate or not. In the event the matter you are acting is a fraud and there is a potential claim, we will work with you to prevent the fraud and minimize potential claims costs.

If you have been successfully duped, please immediately notify LAWPRO as there may be a claim against you. Instructions on how to report a claim are here.

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.

For more immediate updates on fraud and claims prevention, subscribe to the email or RSS feed updates from LAWPRO’s AvoidAClaim blog.

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8 Responses to “Collaborative family law agreement collection scam by Beverly Kawashima targets US lawyers”

  1. Nancy M. says:

    I received something from Bev on January 15th. Apparently this poor woman still hasn’t found anyone to represent her.

  2. Nerino Petro says:

    In addition to Beverly Kawashima, here in the US at least, look for similar emails from:
    Pamela Lee
    Miyoko Kazuo
    Jennifer Nikawa
    Brenda Blumenkratz
    Karen L. Clark
    Jennifer Wong
    Donna Lynn Chapman

    What your post shows is that these folks are becoming more and more sophisticated in that they are now providing convincing documentation.

  3. Kathleen D. says:

    Beverly emailed me today in NC. I don’t think this is the first time I have heard from her.

  4. JoeMac says:

    I was wondering: Do these unsolicited emails create attorney/prospective-client relationships such that the attorney owes the duties of confidentiality and competence? Would an attorney be well-advised to respond with a non-engagement email, advising the client that time is often of the essence and that he/she should seek other counsel etc? Also, would sending avoidaclaim.com the contents of the email exchanges violate the duty of confidentiality?

  5. Nathaniel Thompkins says:

    We got the exact same emails. We also received a counterfeit check from her so called ex husband Mackenzie Kawashima for $389,100

  6. The circumstances of the matter will determine if there is a lawyer/client relationship and what duties of confidentiality apply. These FAQs will walk you through the issues:

    FAQ #1 – Should a lawyer that is the target of a real or suspected fraud contact LAWPRO?

    Yes. As there is a potential claim in the event the matter the lawyer is handling is a fraud, the lawyer is obliged to report the circumstances to LAWPRO under Rule 6.09(2) and the LAWPRO Policy (See FAQ #4.). Subject to confidentiality obligations (see the below FAQs), LAWPRO will gather general facts about the fraud and will talk the lawyer through the typical circumstances seen on similar frauds, including highlighting the red flags that can indicate that a matter is a fraud. LAWPRO will try to help the lawyer determine if the matter is legitimate or fraudulent. In this manner LAWPRO has helped many lawyers avoid being victimized by fraud by helping them recognize they were about to be duped.

    FAQ #2 – Does a lawyer who is handling a matter where there appears to be a fraud targeting him or her have to be concerned about lawyer/client confidentiality when talking to LAWPRO about circumstances of the fraudulent matter?

    It depends. Where the lawyer is handling a matter where there are only suspicions of a fraud, the Rules of Professional Conduct (“Rule(s)”) will apply, including those relating to the obligations of confidentiality (See FAQ #4). Where it is clear there is a fraud, the Rules do not apply as there is no solicitor-client relationship and no obligation to keep circumstances of the fraud confidential. See FAQ #6.

    FAQ #3 – What does Rule 2.03 Say about keeping client information confidential?

    Rule 2.03 of the Rules of Professional Conduct (“Rule(s)”) deals with a lawyer’s obligation to keep confidential all information concerning his/her client. Rule 2.03(1) states:

    A lawyer at all times shall hold in strict confidence all information concerning the business and affairs of the client acquired in the course of the professional relationship and shall not divulge any such information unless expressly or impliedly authorized by the client or required by law to do so.

    FAQ #4 – What are my obligations regarding confidentiality and reporting a claim to LAWPRO under 6.09(2)?

    The Rules impose professional obligations on lawyers to inform their insurers’ about circumstances where a negligence claim may arise. Rule 6.09(2) states:

    A lawyer shall give prompt notice of any circumstance that the lawyer may reasonably expect to give rise to a claim to an insurer or other indemnitor so that the client’s protection from that source will not be prejudiced.

    The commentary to this subrule states:

    As soon as a lawyer becomes aware that an error or omission may have occurred, that may reasonably be expected to involve liability to the client for professional negligence, the lawyer should take the following steps.
    • Subject to rule 2.03 (Confidentiality), inform the insurer of the facts of the situation.

    FAQ #5 – What do the Rules say about lawyers assisting or encouraging a fraud?

    The Rules direct that lawyers should not assist client in committing a fraud. Rule
    2.02(5) Dishonesty, Fraud etc. by Client states:

    When advising a client, a lawyer shall not knowingly assist in or encourage any dishonesty, fraud, crime, or illegal conduct, or instruct the client on how to violate the law and avoid punishment.

    The Commentary to 2.02(5) states:

    A lawyer should be on guard against becoming the tool or dupe of an unscrupulous client or persons associated with such a client. A lawyer should be alert to and avoid unwittingly becoming involved with a client engaged in criminal activity such as mortgage fraud or money laundering. Vigilance is required because the means for these and other criminal activities may be transactions for which lawyers commonly provide services such as: establishing, purchasing or selling business entities; arranging financing for the purchase or sale or operation of business entities; arranging financing for the purchase or sale of business assets; and purchasing and selling real estate.

    Before accepting a retainer or during a retainer, if a lawyer has suspicions or doubts about whether he or she might be assisting a client in dishonesty, fraud, crime or illegal conduct, the lawyer should make reasonable inquiries to obtain information about the client and about the subject matter and objectives of the retainer, including verifying who are the legal or beneficial owners of property and business entities, verifying who has the control of business entities, and clarifying the nature and purpose of a complex or unusual transaction where the purpose is not clear. The lawyer should make a record of the results of these inquiries.

    FAQ #6 – Is a lawyer that is being duped obliged to protect the confidentially of information provided by a fraudster?

    No. Further to the holding in R. vs. Cox and Railton (1884) 14 QBD, if a lawyer is duped, there is no professional relationship between the lawyer and the fraudster. The Rules of Professional Conduct do not apply where there is no solicitor/client relationship, and thus there is no obligation to maintain the confidentiality of any information provided to the lawyer by the fraudster.

    FAQ #7 – How does a lawyer handle a call where there are only suspicions that the matter a lawyer is handling is a fraudulent one?

    If a lawyer only suspects there is a fraud, the lawyer should inform LAWPRO of the basic facts of the matter situation keeping in mind the confidentiality obligations imposed by Rule 2.03. The circumstances of the matter can be discussed without breaching solicitor/client confidentiality. LAWPRO’s experience is that in many instances these discussions lead a lawyer to conclude there is a real fraud, or give them enough information so that they can go away and ask the client more questions in order to determine if the matter is legitimate or not.

  7. Dana R. says:

    I received emails this week from Julie Kobayashi – I’m in NC. This is the third time our firm has received emails relating to this same subject matter.

  8. Eli R. says:

    Another hit. I’ve exchanged two emails now with “Beverly” before I found this post. I’m a private investigator based in Portland, Oregon. Pretty much the same exact email as those above. They did also supply two working, but incorrect phone numbers in Seoul. I’ve forwarded the emails, along with complete header info and other useful information I’ve uncovered, to fraudinfo@lawpro.ca.


    ~ Eli

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