Mississauga man guilty in defrauding...

Mississauga man guilty in defrauding lawyers

Posted in the Georgetown Forum

Look good on them

North Bay, Canada

#1 Mar 16, 2013
A Mississauga man could face up to 20 years in a U.S. prison after pleading guilty to fraud charges in connection with an international scam that has bilked North American lawyers out of millions of dollars.
Emmanuel Ekhator, 42, a Nigerian citizen, was considered one of the ringleaders in the elaborate scheme that cheated Canadian and U.S. law firms of up to $70 million, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office Middle District of Pennsylvania.
Fraudsters would email lawyers claiming to be potential overseas clients — individuals or businesses — looking for legal assistance in collecting money they were owed for divorces, real estate or other legal matters.
Once the firm agreed to represent the fake client, a phony debtor would offer to pay up and send a counterfeit cheque to the lawyer. Another fraudster would pose as a bank employee when the lawyer’s office called to verify the number written on the checks. Once the lawyers cashed the bogus cheques they would take a cut for their legal fee and wire the remaining funds to the fraudster overseas, usually to Asia.
The victims only realized they had been scammed when the cheques were returned as counterfeit, according to court documents.
“It was a very sophisticated scam ... You have someone purporting to be a client and they have other people that are in this with them pretending to be insurance adjusters,” said attorney Barbara Nevin with the Minneapolis firm Milavetz, Gallop & Milavetz.
She confirmed that her company was among those cheated in 2009. But Nevin wouldn’t discuss the details on Thursday, saying the matter is still before the courts, at least until Ekhator is sentenced in June.
Some law firms are pursuing legal action against banks that cleared the phony checks.
Ekhator, who had sought refugee status in Canada, according to court documents, was arrested in Nigeria in 2010 and extradited to the U.S. the following year. In his guilty plea, he took responsibility for losses of $20 million.
His arrest was part of a joint investigation between Toronto Police, the RCMP and U.S. and Nigerian authorities.
U.S. prosecutors said that Ekhator had been living in the Toronto area while co-ordinating the fraud ring and providing information to make counterfeit cheques.
An Ontario woman, Yvette Mathurin, was also arrested in connection with falsely validating cheques

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