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Commercial debt collection scam using the names Stephan Proennecke and DebioTech S.A.

November 26, 2013 By: FraudInfo Category: Confirmed frauds

[Updated Jan 2014]

Twenty U.S. lawyers have notified us that they received an email from the purported Stephan Proennecke of DebioTech S.A. Limited looking to retain them with regards assisting on corporate matters, but in reality is likely a lead-up to a commercial debt collection scam or similar kind of scam.

This is a classic bad cheque scam that presents as legal matter requiring the assistance of a lawyer. In this scam lawyers will be duped into wiring real funds from their trust accounts after depositing a fake cheque received as payment from the debtor (who is part of the fraud). See our Confirmed Fraud Page for more of an explanation of how these frauds work and to see other names associated with it. Our Fraud Fact Sheet lists the red flags of a bogus legal matter that is really a fraud.

Here is the initial contact email sent by the fraudster to the lawyer, subsequent response and fake documentation:

From: Stephan Proennecke [Stephaniproennecke@debiiotech.com]
Sent: Monday, November 25, 2013 6:21 AM
To: Edward Johnson

We were refer to your firm by American Bar Association. We are enquiring for an experienced attorney to handle a breach of contract negotiation or a lawsuit.

Yours Sincerely,
Stephan Proennecke
Project Manager & Director of Production
Debiotech S.A.

Replying to the email brought this response:

Thanks for your response, attached to this email are documents relating to this transaction for your review. Please send to me your standard retainer agreement and address the retainer agreement to Frederic Neftel the Managing Director.

Yours Sincerely,
Stephan Proennecke
Project Manager & Director of Production
Debiotech S.A.
Le Portique Av, de Sévelin 28
1004 Lausanne Switzerland
Phone: +41 22 548 16 70

A New Jersey lawyer was called by someone purporting to be Frederic Neftel (referred to in some of the fake correspondence), and the phone number was 973-642-1801.

Proennecke CONTRACT PAGE 1

Proennecke CONTRACT PAGE 2

Proennecke EMAIL NOTE

Proennecke PAYMENT

How to handle a real or suspected fraud

If you have been targeted by any of these frauds, please forward any of the emails and supporting documents that you have received to fraudinfo@lawpro.ca.

If you suspect you are acting on a matter that might be a fraud, call LAWPRO at 1-800-410-1013 (416-598-5899). 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. If the matter you are acting on turns out to be 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.

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

Fraud Fact Sheet More fraud prevention information and resources are available on the practicePRO Fraud page, 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.

9 Responses to “Commercial debt collection scam using the names Stephan Proennecke and DebioTech S.A.”

  1. Harold Burke says:

    I have Mr. Proennecke, if that is indeed his name, on the line right now. I smelled a Nigerian and have delayed moving forward. Any suggestions on how to proceed?

  2. TimLemieux says:

    Best to simply ignore any future contact from him, or tell him you suspect fraud. That usually makes them go away.

  3. LGW says:

    I received this scam email last week. Lawyers, beware!

  4. GLG says:

    I just received the same email. The email referenced a local company. Thanks for the warning.

  5. JPY says:

    Still up to their tricks in 2014. I just received the same email. I am based in Cleveland, Ohio.

  6. Constance E. Cumbey says:

    Evidently Stephan is still at it. I received one in my inbox just now, January 2, 2014. My smell detector didn’t like it, I googled it and found this warning article. Thanks! I had clients in the past experiencing similar scans, usually involving “sale of fine art”.

  7. Yonne Tiger says:

    Here is the email I got after a generic auto reply was sent to the first email stating I was out of the office until today and would be in contact then.

    We are hours ahead of your time in the united states, Philippe Renaud the President would like to know if it’s OK for him to call you next week Tuesday 11AM your time.

    Here are the case details below.

    We would like to thank you for your response to our inquiry for legal services. However, We wish to inform you that we would be needing your firms legal help to assist us with a breach of contract matter and also retrieve funds owed to our company. The contract of sales was signed on the 2nd August 2013, Seller was suppose to deliver to us the buyer on or before 23rd August 2013. However, the deadline date was extended to 5th September 2013 as requested for by the selling company. Quite unfortunately, the extended deadline was not honored.

    We ordered goods from PRAXAIR, and we were asked to make a 50% down payment for goods to be delivered to us and that we did, and up till date no goods were delivered. We asked for a refund but they have refused to make the refund to us. The amount in dispute is $633,567.60 .

    Despite the foregoing, I will like to draw your attention to the relationship with the selling company which has been cordial and we have had successful business relationship over the past few years, and it is our position to maintain the relationship after settling the issues on hand. Right now, I will like to take appropriate steps and measures to enforce our rights on the agreement and/ or claim damages as appropriate. We request a 9.5% interest on a annual bases from the day the contract was breached.

    If your firm is retained, our expectation of your services for now will be within the scenario of a engagement letter to our client. This approach will trigger the much needed response from our client towards amicable settlement otherwise we will not hesitate to go into court litigation. We are prepared to pay your retainer fees. Litigation may be introduced as a last resort when options have been exhausted. We look forward to your prompt response and you may send your retainer document as well.

    Please find below details of the owing company


    2701 Liberty Pkwy Oklahoma City, OK 73110

    Yours Sincerely,
    Stephan mike. Proennecke

    Project Manager & Director of Production
    Debiotech S.A.

    Le Portique Av, de Sévelin 28
    1004 Lausanne Switzerland
    Phone: 41 22 548 16 70

  8. JoeP says:

    Received a similar email Jan. 9, 2014. Here is a tip to avoid these kinds of things: Be extremely cautious and scrutinize the individual’s contact information, especially email or web address, when they purport to be from a legitimate company. The legitimate company named in this scam is Debio Tech, from Switzerland. If you notice the example provided in the main text of this article, you’ll see that the guy’s return email domain looks like a debiotech email address, except it contains an extra “i” in the email address. The email I just received today contains an extra “t” in the domain name: stephanmporennecke@debiottech.com. But the email I received has a web link at the bottom of the email to the actual Debio Tech company! Missing those fine details in email addresses leads to pratfalls.

    Also, I checked the IP address of the email origination, and it came out of Spain.

  9. Betz + Blevins says:

    We received this email as well.

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