Federal prosecutors have indicted six people in a $32 million Internet collections scam that has snared 80 lawyers in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Alabama and Georgia.
In the indictment, five Nigerians and one Canadian have been accused of wire fraud and conspiracy.
This is how the scam was being operated: An e-mail would be sent in the name of a fictitious individual or a company to a lawyer seeking the latter's help in collecting a debt or money or in divorce settlement. The client would then sign an engagement letter, agreeing to a retainer amount and would provide falsified documentation of the claimed debt or the divorce settlement. Soon thereafter, the lawyer would receive a check by mail, purportedly sent by the other party who wants to avoid the lawsuit. The lawyer would then deposit the check. After deducting the agreed fees, the lawyer would wire the balance to the overseas client, ignorant of the fact that the check is fraudulent.
The indictment follows a multi-year investigation by the FBI, Secret Service and the Postal Service. An alleged ringleader, Emmanuel Ekhator, 40, is in custody in Nigeria, awaiting extradition to the U.S.
According to the federal investigators the scam also operated in Canada, Nigeria, the United Kingdom, South Korea, Japan, China and Singapore.