Man Convicted in International Scheme that Defrauded Lawyers in the US

Published: 19 September 2023

Wire Fraud copyLawyers in the United States were targeted by wire fraud scheme. (Photo: PxHere, License)

By Lieth Carrillo

A U.S. court convicted a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Nigeria of wire fraud involving a so-called ‘attorney collection scheme’ that left U.S.-based attorneys without US$20 million, the Office of the United States Attorney of the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced Monday.

Omoyoma Christopher Okoro was found guilty after a five-day trial that concluded on Friday. He conspired with others to create a scheme in which they posed as foreign clients who seeked the help of U.S. lawyers, claiming someone in the U.S. was owing them money.

Once the lawyer would respond, they would say that meanwhile the alleged debtor was ready to make the payment and the lawyer would via mail receive a check with the instruction to deposit the sum into his or her law firm escrow account, keep a portion of it as payment for services and wire the ballance to a foreign account, usually somewhere in East Asia.

By the time the victim or the bank would realize the check was forged, the money would be withdrawn from the foreign account.

The fraud scheme netted about US$20 million and produced over US$70 million in attempted fraud.

“The evidence at trial showed Okoro communicating with numerous other members of the conspiracy, including individuals responsible for furnishing the financial accounts in East Asia used to receive victim funds, as well as individuals who appeared to be in contact with attorney victims,” the statement said.

Okoro, it said, was often the sender or recipient of emails confirming that funds were wired to a foreign bank account.

Two others involved in this fraud scheme have already been sentenced. A Nigerian national was previously sentenced to more than eight years in prison in 2013 and a Canadian national to 18 years in 2018.