Fraud Alert! Georgia Lawyer Caught in Trust Account Scam

Fraud Alert! Georgia Lawyer Caught in Trust Account Scam

The globalization of business has provided many opportunities for lawyers in Alabama to use an Internet web site to attract potential business clients from around the world. Unfortunately, globalization has also opened many lawyers up to the possibility of being caught in an attorney trust account scam that’s making its way across North America.

David Bilinsky and I wrote about this in an article entitled How Not to Get Stung by Promises of Easy Offshore Work in the July/August issue of Practice Management. Fraudsters posing as foreign clients have been contacting Canadian lawyers and asking them to serve as collection counsel. The large accounts due are surprisingly easily collected, with the happy lawyer retaining his cut and immediately wiring the remainder of the funds to the oversees client. It’s only later that the check forwarded to satisfy the account turns out to be a very, very good counterfeit. By the time the hoax is discovered, the money is long gone. Now the scammers have struck closer to home.

An article in today’s issue of Law.com reports that an attorney in Georgia, Gregory Bartko, has overdrawn his trust account by $190,000 as a result of this same scam, and is being sued by Wacovia to recover on a $200,000 check that turned out to be phony.

The cardinal rule in all this: Make sure you really know who that new client is, and don’t disburse from your trust account until you are really, really, really sure that the funds deposited are good.