Commercial debt collection scam using the names Anthony Kawasaki and Hamamoto Aoki-Steel Co
Date First Reported: September 2014
Primary Name Associated: Anthony Kawasaki
Description of Potential Fraud:
[Updated Oct 2014]
Nearly 90 firms in Ontario and the U.S. have notified us that they received an email from the purported Anthony Kawasaki of Hamamoto Aoki-Steel Co looking to retain them with regards to a commercial debt collection.
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 via LinkedIn sent by the fraudster to the lawyer:
From: Anthony Kawasaki
Sent: Monday, September 22, 2014 8:04 AM
Subject: Breach Of Contract
I wish to request for your legal services and possible representation on a legal matter involving failure to fulfill his contractual obligations. Please do let me know if your office is currently accepting new clients.
Replying to the email brought this response:
We appreciate you giving us a chance to discuss our case. We placed an order for some goods from Ferguson Enterprise, Inc. back in August, 2013 and the terms of the sales contract requires we to pay 50% of the total cost of the ordered goods before delivery and the balance after we have received the same goods. However, after we made the 50% initial deposit, we did not receive any goods as required. The goods ought to be delivered in September, 2013. More time was given to them to deliver the goods which they were still unable to meet with. Hence, we requested for a refund.
We have made several efforts to have them refund the initial deposit, but to no avail. We have therefore decided to resort to legal means since there is an existing agreement prior to the transaction. Find below details of the supplier for your conflict check.
Ferguson Enterprises, Inc
705 E Expwy 83
Pharr, TX 78577
We have suffered so must loss as a result of this failed transaction and we are ready to proceed with litigation if the need should arise. Let us know the best way to have this issue tackled and we will comply as long as we get results. Furthermore, we have concerns and would like you to respond in detail in your reply.
Are they any foibles you see in this case? If litigation is involved, the distance gives us some concern with regards to court appearances. How can this be handled?
How much is your legal fee? Do you charge on hourly basis or contingency? What should we expect from you? Any guarantees? Please advise on your assessment of this case. A quick response will be appreciated.
Hamamoto Aoki-Steel Co., Ltd
1-4-16 Dojimahama, Kita-ku, Osaka, Japan
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]
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. Instructions on how to report a claim are here.
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.
September 25, 2014 at 12:54 pm, Sean said:
My law firm received similar messages for this scam in Maryland. Be careful, folks!
September 26, 2014 at 10:54 am, Michael B. Taggart said:
Was suspicious from the outset. When we found a Ferguson Co. in our location, we thought maybe not a problem. But doing criminal defense work, we’ve run across and defended similar band check cases. It was the dollar amounts that re-ignited our suspicions.
Thought we’d check on the Japanese Co. and we found this web-site. We’ve forwarded our emails to LawPro (hopefully this is a legit site. Sorry once bitten etc.).
Fortunately, we’ve gone no further than emails.
September 26, 2014 at 11:28 pm, Donna said:
I received this in Alabama. I first googled the name Tony Kawasaki but didn’t find anything definitive. So I responded with invite to contact me for consult. When I received their reply I googled the company name and leaned it was indeed a fraud. I glad this info was available!
September 28, 2014 at 8:31 pm, Dan Shea said:
I have been contacted by Anthony Kawasaki concerning a breach of contract action against a supplier in Houston. Due diligence on this end looked good at first until I send him a message that I’d be calling him at the number posted on his emails. No answer. One tipoff is he uses an outlook email address. He purports to be a purchasing agent for Aoki Steel in Osaka which appears to be legit steel company. He got absolutely no legal advice from me or any information other than my cell phone number.
September 29, 2014 at 9:12 am, Andrew Philips said:
I have recievd the same mail today from [email protected]
I wish to inquire for your legal services and possible representation
on a legal matter involving failure to fulfill contractual obligations. Please
do let me know if your office is currently accepting new clients.
October 01, 2014 at 2:30 pm, jim reynolds said:
Kawasaki sent me same email. I knew it was a scam, large Japanese companies are very litigation sophisticated and don’t hire lawyers unseen. I replied just to see what would be sent. I received a phony contract and emails.
I sent back email that Kawasaki has bad karma and will die poor and unhappy. thought that was the least I could for the people he may have scammed.
October 01, 2014 at 3:02 pm, Michael L. Martin said:
My services were solicited in an identical fashion here in New Orleans.
I did my homework before replying, and will forward same to our State Atty Gen.
October 02, 2014 at 10:22 pm, howard posner said:
The one I got was funnier: “Our client has failed to fulfill his contractual obligations. Therefore, we need an attorney to help us obtain legal recourse. Let me know if you can handle this.” Evidently they tweak the message a lot. Why? to minimize the chance that someone will find a site like this one by searching the message wording?
October 03, 2014 at 6:44 pm, Edward Kiss said:
I received an email as well on this. I actually responded initially to it and was actually sent a business proposal, copies of emails purporting to be emails involved in the transaction and a copy of a wire issued back to Aoki Steelas a partial payment. The Ferguson company had a branch about 10 miles from my office. My guess is they search websites for attorneys near a branch of Ferguson and send the email out based on that…..I actually thought my website had earned something, silly me!
October 06, 2014 at 12:09 pm, Byron Yost said:
Heading to the bank to change my account numbers. They sent me all the supporting documents. And they actually had someone else sign my retainer agreement! Good thing I didn’t book my cruise yet!
October 07, 2014 at 1:28 pm, Jay A. Rini said:
Received a similar email from Antony Kawasaki asking re representation to sue a Ferguson store in Washington, DC. Spoke to the store, and of course they knew nothing about it.
I think Anthony maybe “Anthony C” – an individual who claims to be an attorney located in London and uses LinkedIn to contact lawyers to assist on estate matters.
October 07, 2014 at 4:49 pm, Justin Lancaster said:
Thanks to “Avoid a Claim” for having this info up, as as saved further loss of time on this. Got same letters as posted above, with a local division of Ferguson in Newton, MA. I fired off an inquiry through Hamamoto’s contact page to query if they have employee Anthony Kawasaki and to confirm address. But then found this site!!
October 09, 2014 at 3:18 am, William Brady said:
I was solicited here in Honolulu Hawaii…..case looked good..to bad it’s phoney.
October 10, 2014 at 11:29 am, Dana R. Kolter said:
Thank you so much for the posted information. They were trying to victimize me as well. I smelled a rat, especially when they ignored my questions and my requests to speak in person.
October 13, 2014 at 2:11 pm, R. Dawes said:
We just received a very long winded set of E-mail correspondence from the now famous or should I say infamous Anthony Kennedy of Hamamoto Steel.
Our attorney here handed it to me to investigate immediately you could see it was a Scam, the E-mail dates of November of 2013 which they did not bother to change, the syntax was all wrong and as I use to tell people when I was an Economic Crimes Detective, it sounded too good to be true.
Thank you all for placing this obvious scam for all of us to peruse.
Cadillac Law Group, Tampa, FL 33613
October 13, 2014 at 5:36 pm, Mark Karris said:
Fellow Members of Various State Bars-
I received nearly the exact same email request from an Anthony Kawasaki along with purported supporting documentation here in Las Vegas, NV. Told him I would review documents and get back to him, but had been busy with caseload. Found it interesting that he never got back to me to f/u on retainer agreement. When Googling company name for more info, I came across this website. Thanks to all those who have posted warnings! I’m certain you have saved my firm plenty of time and aggravation!
October 15, 2014 at 11:09 am, Alexander Penley said:
The same name contacted me today. I looked up the company in Japan and they seem to exist as does the company he says he wants to sue. Would you also recommend contacting these companies to let them know this is happening in their name?
October 15, 2014 at 11:28 am, TimLemieux said:
You could contact them, but they likely already know. These emails go to hundreds of lawyers. We’ve had a few companies contact us to confirm that they have nothing to do with the scams. Unfortunately, there isn’t much that can be done to prevent a firm or company from having their names used in this way.
October 15, 2014 at 11:35 am, Alexander Penley said:
Good points Tim. Thanks.
October 16, 2014 at 9:48 am, Kevin Maloney said:
I am receiving the exact same emails from this fraudster here in Ohio.
October 27, 2014 at 10:01 am, Lucia said:
Oh jeez thanks. I thought there was something fishy about this.
November 04, 2014 at 2:10 am, Sara said:
Receiving same in Michigan. Looks like they have hit every state. I must say, it is clever. But I would never think that an attorney would send money to a client before disposition. It makes no sense, and should be anyone’s red flag. It’s almost LOL to scam on attorneys. Talk about a skeptical group.
November 12, 2014 at 10:13 am, Phil said:
Just received the e-mail here in Pennsylvania.
November 13, 2014 at 4:01 pm, Los Angeles said:
Solicited in Los Angeles with a near identical email, except I am not a lawyer in any way, shape or form.
November 18, 2014 at 11:28 am, Jack S. Feltscher said:
I received the infamous mail today and checked both the Ferguson and Japanese entities.
I then saw this post.
In any event, it has always been my policy to never begin work until the client’s check clears. In this regard, I doubt the scammer would have been successful with minimum due diligence.
November 26, 2014 at 9:07 am, Dana Oliver said:
Wow, contract signed and all. Thanks to this posting, I won’t be a victim, except for my waste of time reviewing the case. Oh well.
November 30, 2014 at 6:49 pm, G. Duus said:
Jack S. Feltscher,
Waiting for the check to clear is part of the scam. Your bank will “cash” their check even though it will not discover until later that it’s fraudulent. You wire the client money for their share of the check based upon what your bank has done. When your bank later bounces the fraudulent check, you are out the money. You have no claim against the bank for misleading you by seeming to cash the check. The bank has no obligation to cover you for mistakenly appearing to cash the check. You’re out the money.
December 02, 2014 at 12:59 pm, Bradley J. Woodworth said:
Anthony is working his way west: a short and sweet version is in this morning’s email inbox:
I wish to request for your legal services and possible representation on a legal matter involving failure to fulfill contractual obligations. Please do let me know if your office is currently accepting new clients
Interestingly, the email was sent from Kawasaki at a Outlook email address, but was sent by and on his behalf:
Quinesha Sharne’ Farmer (qsfarmer) [[email protected]] on behalf of Anthony Kawasaki
I copied the latter on my “get outta here you scammer” reply in case his computer was an unwitting bot transmitting the messages.
December 15, 2014 at 1:05 pm, Salem Oregon said:
Received 12/15/14 in Salem, Oregon:
Our client has failed to fulfill his contractual obligations. Therefore, we need an attorney to help us obtain legal recourse. Let me know if your office is accepting new clients
Sankyo & Co. Ltd.
Email received from this address: Lujain A Albitawi (llbitawi) ; on behalf of; Sankyo & Co. Ltd.
December 17, 2014 at 11:39 pm, Jennifer Thoma said:
Received the e-mails from Hiroaki Kimura (Sankyo & Co. Ltd.) regarding breach of contract against Ferguson Enterprises here in Pennsylvania.
December 24, 2014 at 12:26 pm, Daniel Daugherty said:
I just received a similar one in Atlanta, GA.
January 07, 2015 at 7:25 pm, Shannon said:
I just received a similar communication from Hiroaki Kimura (Sankyo & CO. Ltd.) regarding a breach of contract action against Ferguson. I’m located in Wisconsin.
January 12, 2015 at 3:02 am, Greg J. said:
Recieved identically-worded email today (01/12/15), in this case from “Loshuka Holdings” (Loshuka_hold01).
I’m located in MI, and a member of the MI State Bar.
January 12, 2015 at 3:38 pm, Bob K said:
I got the same email, from Hroaki Kimura. They even sent the emails, purchase contract and wire transfer documentation. Very well done. Thanks to this web page.
January 13, 2015 at 11:59 am, W. Walker said:
We got this also in Texas (among hundreds of others). It’s pretty sloppy now.
February 18, 2015 at 1:41 pm, Vincent Lewis said:
Received an e-mail from Hossein Taghizad (htghizad) requesting status on the breach of contract claim for Sankyo & Co.,Ltd.
The e-mail address he used is for The University of Memphis.
June 23, 2015 at 11:26 am, Todd M. Morgan said:
I received almost the exact same email, except they changed the companies to Sankyo Steel Ltd and a Hiromichi Morikawa suing Fastenal Co.
Everything else is virtually identical.
Thank you for the heads up everyone.