Home Dallas Press Releases 2010 New Twist on Counterfeit Check Schemes Targeting U.S. Law Firms
This is archived material from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) website. It may contain outdated information and links may no longer function.

New Twist on Counterfeit Check Schemes Targeting U.S. Law Firms

FBI Dallas June 02, 2010
  • Public Affairs Specialist Allison Mahan (972) 559-5000

Robert E. Casey Jr., Special Agent In Charge, Dallas, FBI, provides the following crime alert advisory:

The FBI continues to receive reports of counterfeit check schemes targeting U.S. law firms. In this scheme, scammers send e-mails to lawyers, claiming to be overseas and seeking legal representation to collect delinquent payments from third parties in the U.S. The law firm receives a retainer agreement, invoices reflecting the amount owed, and a check payable to the law firm. The firm is instructed to extract the retainer fee, including any other fees associated with the transaction, and wire the remaining funds to banks in Korea, China, Ireland, or Canada. By the time the check is determined to be counterfeit, the funds have already been wired overseas.

In Dallas, the scheme involved a person identifying himself as Greg Vanderg, vice president of an overseas company, TruSeal Industrial, a fictitious Denmark company. Vanderg then sent a legitimate looking e-mail to the law firm seeking legal assistance in processing/placing a lien on the property/assets of a debtor. The law firm agreed to assist the client and negotiated a retainer amount and obtained a signed engagement letter. The law firm was then provided falsified documentation outlining the alleged debt owed by the debtor.

After the agreement was reached between the law firm and the fictitious TruSeal overseas company, a person who identified themselves as Vanderg’s secretary, Andrea Kentz, sent the law firm an e-mail advising the debtor had agreed to settle the debt to avoid litigation. In this particular instance in Dallas, the law firm was advised the debtor had agreed to pay $492,510. The debtor’s check was sent to the law firm. The law firm than deposited the check, kept the agreed upon $20,000 retainer fee, then wired the remaining money, $472,510, to the alleged overseas company. The check mailed to the law firm turned out to be counterfeit and no payment was made on the check. By the time the law firm determined the check was not legitimate, the wired amount was collected.

In the Dallas scheme, the debtor was alleged to be located in Houston, Texas. However, the counterfeit check was mailed to the law firm from Ontario, Canada.

In a new twist, the fraudulent client seeking legal representation is an ex-wife "on assignment" in an Asian country, and she claims to be pursuing a collection of divorce settlement monies from her ex-husband in the U.S. The law firm agrees to represent the ex-wife, sends an e-mail to the ex-husband, and receives a "certified" check for the settlement via delivery service. The ex-wife instructs the firm to wire the funds, less the retainer fee, to an overseas bank account. When the scam is executed successfully, the law firm wires the money before discovering the check is counterfeit.

All Internet users need to be cautious when they receive unsolicited e-mails. Law firms are advised to conduct as much due diligence as possible before engaging in transactions with parties who are handling their business solely via e-mail, particularly those parties claiming to reside overseas.