The ABA Journal has reported that a Texas lawyer was arrested in relation to email debt collection frauds that have been plaguing law firms in recent years. The lawyer appears to have been running the fraud as part of an international criminal gang targeting lawyers in several countries, which matches information we’ve seen from a previous fraudster arrest.

It’s probably too much to hope that one arrest will slow the pace of these emails, but its good to see
law enforcement takes the problem seriously. While the nearly 800 fraud-related posts on AvoidaClaim have helped prevent many frauds in recent years, we still hear about lawyers being duped for large amounts of money.

Here is the text of the ABA Journal article:

A Texas lawyer has been indicted in alleged conspiracy targeting law firms, businesses and lonely singles.

The lawyer, Perry Don Cortes of Little River, Texas, was charged along with a nonlawyer co-defendant, Priscilla Ann Ellis of Harker Heights, Texas, Texas Lawyer (sub. req.) reports. The Aug. 20 indictment (PDF) seeks forfeiture of at least $8.8 million. The Temple Daily Telegram and the Killeen Daily Herald also have stories.

The law firm scheme worked this way, according to the indictment: The defendants created phony companies that sought legal representation in legal disputes. They obtained money orders for low amounts, then altered them for much higher amounts that were made payable to law firms that had agreed to represent them.

The phony companies would then notify law firms they had settled the case, and would send the forged money orders to the law firms. Then the companies would ask the law firms to immediately send the fake companies all or part of the settlement proceeds.

The defendants are also accused of participating in a conspiracy that spoofed emails from legitimate businesses and that hacked into email accounts of individuals and businesses to fraudulently obtain wire transfers. The conspiracy also targeted users of Internet dating sites, feigning romantic relationships to persuade the targets to send funds, the indictment says.

Cortese and Ellis are accused of conspiracies to commit wire fraud and money laundering. They were arrested on Aug. 31and removed to Florida to face charges.

Categories: Fraud Prevention