Commercial equipment purchase scam using the names Smith Marino and Astronomic Engineering
Date First Reported: April 2016
Primary Name Associated: Smith Marino
Description of Potential Fraud:
Firms in California and Michigan have notified us that they received an email from the purported Smith Marino of Astronomic Engineering looking to retain them with regards to making a large commercial purchase.
This appears to be a 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 purchaser (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 to the lawyer:
From: Astronomic Engineering Inc. [mailto:[email protected]]
Sent: Thursday, April 07, 2016 4:52 AM
Subject: Does your firm handle purchase and sales agreements?
Does your firm handle purchase and sales agreements? If not, a referral will be appreciated thanks.
Astronomic Engineering Inc.
40 Wychwood Crescent,
Kawartha Lakes, ON K0M 1A0
Replying to the email brought this response:
I am the Sales Director of Astronomic Engineering, Inc. We are in a process of selling a Bagger 288, Schwing S36X, Multipurpose dredgers Engine, Drilling Rig Machine to a company, in your state, For this transaction to be completed within the stipulated period, we would need legal guidance to help my company follow due process of doing business in your state since we are not located there.
The sales price of this equipment is estimated to cost $4,127,500.00. This amount includes the shipping and handling cost, quality control testing with a partner company before shipping to ensure it meets with the US quality control standard, insurance, and other necessary documentations that needs approval before the equipment is shipped to the client. See attached documents for your review.
The Letter of Intent (LOI) will be sent together once we sign your engagement letter. Advise us on your retainer fees/rates including details of your terms of engagement for my company to study. Once we are clear on the details of your retainer, we will go ahead, sign it and forward back to you to commence the process.Below is the name of the prospective client/company, for your conflict check:
Proposed Buyer: Paul Esposito
Michigan Hydraulic Dredging
1011 N Black River Rd,
Cheboygan, MI 49721
Astronomic Engineering, Inc.
40 Wychwood Crescent,
Kawartha Lakes, ON K0M 1A0
Email: [email protected]
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 [email protected]. We use this information for the warnings we post on AvoidAClaim. We do not disclose the names of firms that have provided us with information.
Ontario Lawyers - Call LAWPRO
If you are an Ontario lawyer acting on a matter that you suspect might be a fraud, call LAWPRO at 1-800-410-1013 (416-598-5899). One of our Fraud Team members 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, we will work with you to prevent the fraud and minimize potential claims costs.
What can you do to help put a stop to the fraud attempt?
You can simply stop replying to the fraudster’s emails or inform them that you suspect fraud and will not act on the matter. You can report the fraudsters’ email addresses to the email hosting company. If you have a fraudulent cheque you can destroy it or send it to the fraud department of the financial institution it is drawn upon. In Canada, you can report the fraud to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.
We are often asked if it is worthwhile to report the fraud attempt to the police in the hopes of helping catch the fraudsters. You can certainly report the fraud to your local or federal law enforcement agencies, but unfortunately it is often difficult, expensive and time consuming for them to attempt to shut down these online fraud perpetrators (though there are some successes).
What if the fraud has been successful?
If you have been successfully duped, please immediately notify LAWPRO as there may be a claim against you. See the LAWPRO website for instructions on how to report a claim.
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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. To proactively prevent trust account shortfalls and malpractice claims, LAWPRO encourages firms to teach their lawyers and staff about fraud and how to recognize fraud attempts.