Federal prosecutors have indicted six people in a $32 million international scam that victimized 80 attorneys in Alabama, Georgia, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Canada.
Five Nigerians and one Canadian are accused of wire fraud and money laundering conspiracy in the indictments, which follows a multi-year investigation by the FBI, Secret Service and the Postal Service. Emmanuel Ekhator, 40, the alleged ringleader, is in custody in Nigeria awaiting extradition to the U.S.
The others are believed to be in Canada, Nigeria and South Korea, according to court filings. The alleged con involved a collection scam that used the lawyers as unwitting accomplices in check frauds against banks in Asia.
The scam worked like this: An e-mail would seek a lawyer’s help collecting a debt, divorce settlement or other money. Then the lawyer would be contacted by a purported representative for the person or company owing the money who would offer to pay the debt. When the lawyer received the check, he or she would deposit it, and then would wire the funds to an Asian bank before discovering the check was fraudulent, according to ABA Journal.
The indictment cites 300 other cases in which lawyers were approached by the con artists, in addition to those who were scammed.