Date First Reported: June 2015

Primary Name Associated: Lia Nelson

Description of Potential Fraud:


A Washington state firm notified us that they received an email from the purported Lia Nelson of Cruise International looking to retain them with regards to making a large commercial purchase.

This is 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 by the fraudster to the lawyer:

From: Lia M. Nelson [mailto:[email protected]]
Sent: Thursday, June 11, 2015 10:40 AM
Subject: Legal services

My name is Lia Nelson and I’m a broker with Cruise International Japan. We are seeking your legal services and would like to know if you are accepting new clients at the moment.

Your prompt response will be highly appreciated.

Thank you.

Lia M. Nelson

Cruise International
1-16-25 Shin-Ishikawa Aoba-ku
Yokohama, Kanagawa 225-0003 Japan
T: +81 45 670 2229

Replying to the email brought this response:

Thank you for your response. Concerning the legal services we seek, our company (broker) is requesting your services in a pending yacht purchase agreement for one of our vessels. A purchaser in the U.S has indicated interest in the custom luxury yacht listed with us for US$3,200,000. After a few calls made to us and some negotiation, a written offer has been prepared (Purchase & Sale Agreement, or P & S document) for US$2,850,000, a blank copy of which I have attached with this email for your review.

If you are familiar with yacht sales procedure which is similar to real estate, offers are to be accompanied by a 10% escrow deposit in order to be considered by the Seller. However, our purchaser has insisted on the use of a NEUTRAL third party as escrow holder to safeguard his deposit so that it stays in the U.S until all conditions of purchase (sea trial, survey and inspection) are complete. We on the other hand have reserved the right to choose the neutral third party that will act in this capacity so that the funds can be held there locally pending acceptance of the vessel; thus our need for your services as since only fellow brokers or attorneys can take up this role, which ensures professional conduct.

It has been mutually agreed that the fees for this service shall be split equally between the purchaser and the vendor.

Escrow fees are usually 4% of the escrowed sum in Japan, so please inform us of your fees (if different) and I will communicate same to the purchaser for his nod or otherwise.


Lia M. Nelson

Cruise International
1-16-25 Shin-Ishikawa Aoba-ku
Yokohama, Kanagawa 225-0003 Japan
T: +81 45 670 2229

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.

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Fraud Fact SheetMore 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.