This is What Fraud Looks Like
This cashier’s check is fake.
I received a phone call from a potential client, Jeffrey Miller (not his real name), who allegedly had settled an employment discrimination and harassment claim against Walgreens for $101,580.00. It had been about a month since the settlement, and he hadn’t received the funds. He claimed that Walgreens’ told him that because of COVID-19, everything was put on hold. He wanted to retain my firm to get paid without further delay.
I quoted Mr. Miller my fee, and he countered with a lower price. I declined. After a bit more conversation, he agreed to hire my firm at my original quote and to have us move forward to collect the purported breach of written settlement agreement.
From the telephone conversation, I could tell something was off. After 34 years of practicing law you develop a pretty good sixth sense for people.
Now, don’t get me wrong. During our original telephone conversation, Mr. Miller was smooth and acted like he was doing me a favor by eventually agreeing to my full fee. He was a true pro.
In any case, I used DocuSign to obtain Mr. Miller’s signature on my business retainer and general authorization. We’re doing this in most of our new cases during COVID-19. He also sent over a copy of the alleged Walgreens settlement agreement (click to read), which looked (almost) real but did contain multiple red flags.
At the same time he sent over the Walgreens’ agreement, at my request, he also sent over a copy his official photo ID with signature. Below is the FAKE passport he sent to me. Full disclosure, while I do recognize the eagle, I have no idea who’s name or picture is on the fraudulent passport 😉
In response to the above, I discussed this issue with counsel for Walgreens, and they confirmed this was all part of an ongoing scam. I was told this scam was ongoing and defrauding attorneys and other people across the country.
I didn’t let Mr. Miller know I was on to his con game. Within a few days, I received a FedEx envelope at my law firm with a cover letter and the previously mentioned “cashier’s check” for $101,580.00.
Generally, in a legitimate transaction, the attorney would deposit the check in her attorney/client bank trust account and then issue the client’s portion of the funds to the client. In this scam, Mr. Miller was looking for the attorney’s bank to accept the cashier’s check (it looks real) and then have the attorney mail or wire the client (scammer) his portion of the funds.
After receiving the funds from the attorney’s trust account, the criminal then immediately wires the funds sideways to a third party offshore account. At this point, the money is gone.
In the meantime, the cashier’s check initially deposited into the attorney/client trust account, eventually bounces, and the attorney is left having to cover all of the funds that were fraudulently deposited and then transferred to the criminal out of the trust account.
This is an old scam (here’s a cashier check, you deposit it, send me my portion, and then you keep the rest) with a new twist. This new approach combines an already agreed to settlement agreement with a well-known company and supporting documentation (letters and settlement agreement from Walgreens). Everything is supported by well written emails and, payment is made with an official-looking cashier’s check that most banks will accept as valid.
From the perspective of a lawyer, this is an easy case to win– if it was real.
I’ve reported this fraud to the local authorities. I’ve provided them with copies of all emails and supporting documents. We’ll see what happens.
Having said that, this experience reminds me, to remind all of you, of the old adage,
“If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
In any case, I thought some of you might find this interesting. Be careful out there and always do your due diligence before entering into a deal or parting with your money.
And one more thing– Mr. Miller, or whoever you are, the authorities are looking for you.