Lawyer Says He is ‘a Capital D Dumbass’ for Losing $182K in E-Mail Scam
A Houston lawyer has taken a home equity loan to repay his law firm for $182,500 lost in a variation of what has become known as the Nigerian e-mail scam.
In the case of lawyer Richard Howell Jr., the scammer claimed to be a Japanese businessman who needed help collecting $3.6 million from four customers in the United States, Texas Lawyer reports. Howell checked and found websites of the collecting company and the four U.S. debtors. His firm Buckley, White, Castaneda & Howell, would get a contingency fee of one-third for any money collected. “To me, it sounded like it could be a potentially lucrative client from Japan,” Howell told the legal publication.
The firm received a collections check of $367,500 and, believing the check had cleared, sent $182,500 to the supposed Japanese client in Hong Kong, according to a suit Howell’s firm has filed against Citibank in Houston court. The suit contends the check was labeled “Citibank Official Check” and a Citibank employee verified that the money had been paid, a representation that turned out to be wrong when the check bounced.
Howell told Texas Lawyer that he hopes his story will help other lawyers avoid the same mistake. “I’m a capital D Dumbass,” he told the publication.
But he’s not the only lawyer to have fallen prey to the scam. Howell says he knows of another Texas lawyer who lost $300,000 in a similar check fraud. And an Atlanta lawyer, Gregory Bartko, lost $200,000 to a scammer who claimed to be from Tah Tong Textile Co., a real company that trades on the Taiwanese stock exchange, according to a report this summer. Bartko later concluded there is no connection between the company and the person who contacted him.