Scam The Lawyers

We’re not really sure how to react to email fraud that targets lawyers. After all, the very nature of the legal profession requires the lawyer to keep a sharp eye out for documents and people that misrepresent themselves. Therefore, if any group should be able to spot fraud you’d think it would be those who practice law.

Apparently this is not the case.

Based on the relatively high volume of email fraud attempts aimed at lawyers, it appears that lawyers are actually worthwhile targets for scams. Otherwise, this type of fraud would be far less frequent.

According to this article on the Virginia State Bar (VSB) web site we’re not the only ones who have noticed this. The article begins with with the statement:

Virginia lawyers are being targeted by an e-mail scam that purports to retain the lawyer, then uses fraudulent certified checks or wire transfers to steal money from the attorney’s trust account.

A pretty good description of the average scam. However, the problem is not limited to Virginia. The world is full of lawyers and in the world of the con, they’re all fair game.

For instance:

Subject: Attorney Advice, please reply to mrszeng.zhaohengsteel@yahoo.com.hk

From: “Scanlon, Brian” <Brian.Scanlon@jacobs.com>

To: <attykenphillipslaw@gmail.com>

Dear Counsel,

I am sending this email as a mutual introduction. Mrs. Amy zeng is the
managing director of Shenzhen Zhaoheng Specialty Steel Co.,Ltd.

Shenzhen Zhaoheng Specialty Steel Co.,Ltd. is a manufacturer and supplier of
steel, coils and transformers.  Shenzhen Zhaoheng Specialty Steel Co.,Ltd.
is owed payment on shipments that they made to customers here in the US, Canada and
South America from January 2009. The company is now seeking advice and possible
representation in litigation against the non-paying companies in your
state. I can not handle this matter at this point because it is out of
our jurisdiction. I have represented this company in the past, therefore
I am assisting them in finding an attorney in the required state.

Kindly contact Mrs. Amy zeng if you are interested in representing
them. Below is her contact information as follows:

Amy Zeng
Shenzhen Zhaoheng Specialty Steel Co.,Ltd.
mrszeng.zhaohengsteel@yahoo.com.hk

I encourage you to contact one another to see if this is a situation where you can work
together. Should you have any questions please contact my office at the below noted
information.

Sincerely,
Brian Scanlon, Paralegal
kenneth phillips, Attorney
attykenphillipslaw@gmail.com

NOTICE – This communication may contain confidential and privileged information that is for the sole use of the intended recipient. Any viewing, copying or distribution of, or reliance on this message by unintended recipients is strictly prohibited. If you have received this message in error, please notify us immediately by replying to the message and deleting it from your computer.

If you’ve read any of our previous posts on email fraud you’ll see the hallmarks of fraud all over this message:

  1. We did a quick search for the address Brian.Scanlon@jacobs.com and found copies of the exact email reproduced above.
  2. The message has grammar and formatting errors typical of a non-English speaking person using an old email client (modern email clients do not usually trash line-breaks).
  3. The “To:” address above (attykenphillipslaw@gmail.com) is the same as one of the addresses listed in the final “signature”.
  4. kenneth phillips is not capitalized indicating that this was probably pulled in by some sort of merge software. (Searching for this address has the same result as searching for Brian.Scanlon@jacobs.com.)

As noted in the VSB article linked above, the scam is a fake debt collection assignment.

This next one is an example of the divorce settlement sub-genre which is also quite common:

Subject: Sequel To Your Non Response Of Our Earlier Letter?

From: “Mrs Jennifer Lunyang.” <labor@mail.e-land.gov.tw>

To: [blank]

Hi Counsel. My name is Jennifer Lunyang. I am contacting your firm in regards to a divorce settlement with my ex husband who resides in your jurisdiction. I am currently living in Japan . We had an out of court agreement for him to pay( $580,000) five hundred and eighty thousand dollars plus legal fees. He has only paid me ($95,000) Ninety five thousand dollars since .I am hereby seeking your firm to represent me in collecting the balance from him. He has agreed already to pay me the balance but it is my belief that a Law firm like yours is needed to help me collect payment from my ex-husband or litigate this matter if he fails to pay as promised.

Sincerely, Jennifer

— Mailed by e-land —

This one also shows itself to be an obvious scam in a number of ways:

  1. The author says “she” lives in Japan but the “From:” address (labor@mail.e-land.gov.tw) is on a Taiwanese government domain. This is rather suspicious.
  2. Compared to the formality of the subject “Sequel To Your Non Response Of Our Earlier Letter?” the salutation “Hi Counsel.” seems a bit too breezy. Not to mention generic.
  3. Grammar and formatting are kind of off, but we could give the benefit of the doubt on this one since it’s not pretending to be business correspondence (except for the subject).
  4. Searching the name Jennifer Lunyang reveals that it has been used in conjunction with other fraud campaigns.

The divorce approach is quite common, so much so that it would pay to be suspicious of any divorce settlement inquiry from outside the local jurisdiction of the law practice receiving the request.

One final note: For some reason fraud attempts targeting lawyers overwhelmingly originate from the east. In the case of the divorce settlement type, particularly from Taiwan or China but pretending to be Japanese. The business collection requests tend to come from the Sinosphere as well.

All of which leads us to this conclusion:

Lawyers, beware of orientals collecting debts.

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11 Responses to “Scam The Lawyers”

  1. Anonymous Lawyer says:

    From: Michel Mahillon
    To:
    Subject: REFERRAL
    Date: Aug 2, 2010 9:40 AM

    Dear Counsellor,

    My name is Michel Mahillon, founder of Michel Mahillon Law Firm in Brussels Belgium.

    I got your contact details from your local attorney listing.

    I am sending this email as a mutual introduction (potential representation) of an

    old clientof mine.My old client Mr Toshikazu Nishimoto is the President of Tokyo Steel

    Manufacturing Co., Ltd. Tokyo Steel Manufacturing Co., Ltd is a steel & chemical

    trading company in Tokyo Japan.Tokyo Steel,has a claim against a company that is

    registered in your State for a breach of contract.I can not handle this matter as i

    am not licensed to practise in your state.I represented this company in a different

    matter here in Belgium some time ago.This matter is in your jurisdiction/region and

    that is why am referring him to you.If you are interested in reviewing the details of

    his claim,then kindly contact Mr Nishimoto.He would be glad to furnish you with the

    details about his claim.

    His contact info is:

    Toshikazu Nishimoto

    Tokyo Steel Manufacturing Co., Ltd

    4-2, Kasumigaseki 1-chome,Japan.

    Email:toshnish.tokyosteel@tokyomail.com

    Please do note hesitate to revert to me should the need arise.

    Thanking you in anticipation.

    Regards,

    Michel Mahillon
    Avenue F.D. Roosevelt 51 1050
    Brussels, Belgium
    Tel:02 649 954
    michel@lawyer.com

    IMPORTANT: This email originates from a law firm. The information contained in this
    message is confidential and subject to various privileges and other legal protections.
    If you are not the intended recipient of this message, you should take appropriate
    action to prevent any harm that may arise due to the improper release or dissemination
    of the information contained herein. You should destroy this message and notify the sender.
    Please contact the sender if you have any questions.

    ———————————-

    Funny, the lawyer’s contact info is real except for the e-mail address.

    michellaw@gmx.fr yields no search results on Google.

    The Japanese company info is correct.

    I tried to Google the entire message, but this didn’t come up (I found it by typing “Lawyer scam blog”).

    I wonder if the real Michel Mahillon knows his name is being used for this?

    His real e-mail address appears to be mahillon@skynet.be.

    Do you want to contact him?

  2. Veryan Haysom says:

    The September 6, 2010 version of the Mahillon scam gives his e-mail address as
    attorneymichel@gmx.com

  3. Mike says:

    And the September 15 version of this scam lists “michel@lawyer.com” and “attorney.michelmahillon@gmx.fr” as the addresses….

  4. John says:

    The September 17, 2010 email lists “mahillon@gmx.fr” as the address, in addition to “michel@lawyer.com”.

  5. Here is the September 28, 2010 version of the email. Note the formatting/typo errors not typical of a lawyer. It has yet another return email address.

    **** begin spam message****

    Dear Counsel,
    My name is Michel Mahillon ,a senior Partner in Mahillon Law Firm in Brussels Belgium.I got your contact details from your local attorney listing.I am sending this email as a mutual introduction (potential representation). Mr Toshikazu Nishimoto is the President of Tokyo Steel Manufacturing Co., Ltd.
    Mr Nishimoto entity is a steel & chemical trading company in Tokyo Japan.Tokyo Steel,has a claim against a company that is registered in your State for a breach of contract.

    I can not handle this matter as it is not within my region/jurisdiction.I have represented this company in a different matter, in the past here in Belgium.This matter is in your jurisdiction/region; that is why am referring him to you.If interested,please get back to me so that i can forward your email address to the
    company in Japan so that they can contact you with relevant and detailed information regarding the matter.

    I look forward to hearing from you.

    Sincerely,

    Michel Mahillon
    Avenue F.D. Roosevelt 51 1050
    Brussels, Belgium
    Tel:02 649 954
    michel.mahillonlaw@gmx.com

    IMPORTANT: This email originates from a law firm. The information contained in this
    message is confidential and subject to various privileges and other legal protections.
    If you are not the intended recipient of this message, you should take appropriate
    action to prevent any harm that may arise due to the improper release or dissemination
    of the information contained herein. You should destroy this message and notify the sender.
    Please contact the sender if you have any questions.

    **** end spam message****

  6. K. Rubin says:

    Here is the October 4, 2010 version.

    REFERRAL
    From: Michel Mahillon View Contact
    To: mlawfirm@gmx.com

    ——————————————————————————–

    Dear Counselor,

    My name is Michel Mahillon, founder of Michel Mahillon Law Firm in
    Brussels Belgium.

    I got your contact details from your local attorney listing.

    I am sending this email as a mutual introduction (potential
    representation) of an old client.My old client Mr Toshikazu Nishimoto is
    the President of Tokyo Steel Manufacturing Co., Ltd. Tokyo Steel
    Manufacturing Co., Ltd is a steel & chemical trading company in Tokyo
    Japan.Tokyo Steel,has a claim against a company that is registered in
    your State for a breach of contract.I can not handle this matter as i am
    not licensed to practice in your state.I represented this company in a
    different matter here in Belgium some time ago.This matter is in your
    jurisdiction/region and that is why am referring him to you.If you are
    interested in reviewing the details of his claim,then kindly contact Mr
    Nishimoto.He would be glad to furnish you with the details about his
    claim.

    His contact info is:

    Toshikazu Nishimoto
    Tokyo Steel Manufacturing Co., Ltd
    4-2, Kasumigaseki 1-chome,Japan.
    Email:nishimoto.tokyosteel@tokyomail.com

    Please do note hesitate to revert to me should the need arise.

    Thanking you in anticipation.

    Michel Mahillon
    Avenue F.D. Roosevelt 51 1050
    Brussels, Belgium
    Tel:02 649 954
    mlawfirm@gmx.com

    IMPORTANT: This email originates from a law firm. The information
    contained in this message is confidential and subject to various
    privileges and other legal protections.If you are not the intended
    recipient of this message, you should take appropriate action to prevent
    any harm that may arise due to the improper release or dissemination
    of the information contained herein. You should destroy this message and
    notify the sender.Please contact the sender if you have any
    questions.

  7. a bomb says:

    just got the same email today re Mr. Nishimoto, this time from one Emmanuel Aspeele in Belgium…

  8. Rob says:

    I just got this email this morning, but the lawyer’s name is now Emmanuel Aspeele from Bruge in Belgium.

  9. Steve says:

    I also got one from a Mr. Aspeele for the same Tokyo Steel thing.

  10. Joyce says:

    I got the same email from supposed Antwerp lawyer (who actually came up in Martindale but with no firm name): His name was Vincent Bakeroot

    from VINCENT BAKEROOT
    reply-to aspeelelawfirm@lawyer.com
    to
    date Wed, Mar 2, 2011 at 4:04 PM
    subject Referral

    hide details 4:04 PM (19 hours ago)

    Dear Colleague,
    I got your contact details from your local attorney listing.
    I am sending this email as a mutual introduction (potential
    representation) of an old clientof mine.My old client Mr Toshikazu Nishimoto
    is the President of Tokyo Steel Manufacturing Co., Ltd. Tokyo Steel
    Manufacturing Co., Ltd is a steel & chemical trading company in Tokyo Japan.Tokyo
    Steel,has a claim against a company that is registered in your territory for a breach of
    contract.I can not handle this matter as i am not licensed to practise in your state.I
    represented this company in a different matter here in Belgium some time ago.This
    matter is in your jurisdiction/region and that is why am referring him to you.If you are
    interested in reviewing the details of his claim,please kindly indicate in your reply so
    that i can forward you contact info to Mr Nishimoto so as to enable him contact you with
    relevant detailed information.

    Thanking you in anticipation.
    Regards,

    Vincent Bakeroot
    Attorney At Law
    Brusselstraat 59
    Antwerp, Belgium
    +32 3 238676
    Email/ aspeelelawfirm@lawyer.com

    IMPORTANT: This email originates from a law firm. The information
    contained in this message is confidential and subject to various
    privileges and other legal protections.If you are not the intended recipient of this message, you
    should take appropriate action to prevent any harm that may arise due to
    the improper release or dissemination of the information contained herein. You should destroy
    this message and notify the sender.Please contact the sender if you have
    any questions.

  11. rob roby says:

    we received it this AM from Bakeroot.