A Southlake law firm was recently targeted in what amounts to a revamped, high-dollar version of a familiar scheme to steal money from an unsuspecting victim.
"They knew exactly what they were doing," said Meghan Doades, an attorney with McCown, P.C., about the unknown suspects who attempted to swindle nearly $500,000 from the boutique Southlake law firm.
The scheme began with an unsolicited email from a man who represented himself as an executive with a real, international company with offices in the United States. The email asked McCown to represent their company in a breach of contract lawsuit against another real company with offices in Dallas-Fort Worth.
"I did ask them where they found us and they said, 'Google.' And since the company that they claimed was in breach of contract was in the area, this was definitely something we would look into," Doades said.
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But there were red flags that raised concerns for Doades, including a Hotmail email address for the supposed executive and a one-word difference in the official company name from the prospective client. Also, the client sent a check for $489,500 to McCown, P.C. to be deposited for legal expenses. The firm was then to send a check back in the amount of the difference.
Despite those concerns, the prospective client followed up the initial email conversation with a letter and a considerable amount of legal documents which appeared to have been professionally prepared, Doades said.
"They had wire transfer documents, they had a contract, they also had a purchase order all with company letterheads," Doades said. "This is a sophisticated operation. It was clear that they knew what the American legal system entailed."
A phone call to the prospective client's American headquarters confirmed that none of the correspondence was legitimate and was instead an effort to commit fraud, Doades said.
"You know, if we didn't get anything from the American headquarters we would have called Japan. Although our phone bill would have been higher we wouldn't be out half a million dollars," Doades said.