Date First Reported: March 2014

Primary Name Associated: Steven Culwell

Description of Potential Fraud:


An Ohio firm notified us that they received an email from the purported Steven Culwell of Essar Steel Processing & Distribution 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 email sent by the fraudster to the lawyer and subsequent reply:

Subject: Litigation Inquiry…
Date: 2014-02-20 14:42
From: Steven Culwell

I want to inquire if your firm handles breach of contract cases. A
referral will be welcomed if this is not your area of practice.

Steven Culwell

Replying to the email brought this response:

I want to thank you for taking time in following up with our request.
Our company purchased steel materials from Parker Steel which you
already know is our debtor. We carried out an inspection on the
materials before making payment and arrangements on shipping. After the
first inspection was done we agreed to pay them the full amount which
was stated on the sales contract. On the day of sailing we carried out a
final inspection and discovered that the materials on board was not the
same we had inspected previously, on that note we cancelled our order
and requested for our funds. They promised to return the funds two weeks
from the day of cancellation which was 20th of September 2013. We feel
if we do not take quick action on this matter we might be on the risk of
loosing $2,200,000.00 USD. Find attached our email correspondence with
Parker Steel.

Please kindly send us your engagement letter.

Steven Culwell
Executive Board of Director
Essar Steel Processing & Distribution UK LTD
Pensnett Road, Dudley,
West Midlands DY1 2HA United Kingdom.
T: +44 793 701 4296
F: +44 809 174 0930 [1]

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.