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August 21
1961 - CalArts grad (MFA '92) and marine biologist Stephen Hillenburg, creator of Spongebob SquarePants, born in Oklahoma; developed prototype for Spongebob while studying at CalArts in 1989. Estimated net worth in 2012: $90 million [story]


Commentary Carl Kanowsky, Esq.
| Thursday, Jun 6, 2019

Carl Kanowsky, Esq.

Greed or sloth can lead to the unintended separation of you and your money. This truth guides some current schemes targeted at those who lust after easy money.

Squarely in the crosshairs is the greedy attorney. Now I know, all of you are aghast that there might actually be such practitioners of the law. Sorry to disabuse those so trusting, but yes, unfortunately, these scoundrels do exist. And there are those attorneys who, while not necessarily greedy, are simply lazy.

There are reports of attorneys losing tens of millions of dollars to flimflam artists.

Even those of us who pride ourselves on trying valiantly and ethically to represent our clients can become targets. Let me explain a recent effort aimed at me.

Potential client (we’ll call him Bill; not sure what his real name is) emails me, saying he used to live in Canyon Country. While living out here, he worked for a publicly traded retailer as an assistant store manager. During his tenure at the store, the sister of the company’s CEO also worked there. Well, apparently sister-woman took a hankering to Bill, making her interest and intentions quite well known, including by groping poor Bill.

Bill, shocked by such behavior, complained to his regional supervisor. Shortly afterward, Bill gets fired. He shoots off an indignant email to the retailer’s HR department. Apparently recognizing their exposure –no pun intended – the company agrees to pay Bill $135,000 for his claim.

A settlement agreement and release are executed, but Bill never gets his cash, despite his repeated demands.

Frustrated, Bill emails me, seeing if I can help recover the promised payment. Skeptical, as this seems like really easy money, I send Bill a retainer agreement on a Tuesday. Two days later, he writes me that he has signed the agreement.

Then something truly bizarre happens.

The chief financial officer of the retailer – now keep in mind that this is a company that does billions in sales annually – emails me less than two hours after Bill’s email about the retainer agreement. Essentially the CFO says, “Sorry for not making this payment earlier; we’ll get it to you next week. To whom do I make the check payable?”

This is the crux of the scam. I’m supposed to deposit the check in my trust account, deduct my fee, and send the balance to Bill.

If I had done that, I am certain that within 30 days I would have learned that the check was bogus. So, rather than making a tidy sum, I would owe my bank the money they had sent to Bill at my instruction. And, of course, Bill would be in the wind.

Smelling a rat, I phoned the headquarters of the major retailer to see if the email actually came from the CFO. Someone from the legal department called me back. It seems I was the second attorney just that day, checking to see if the CFO had sent such an email. Now I knew it was bogus. That was confirmed when the retailer told me that no one named Bill (last name intentionally deleted) had worked at the retailer’s Canyon County store.

Clearly, it was a scam from the beginning. So, don’t expect that just because you are a professional, you are immune to such efforts. Better to abide by the following adage:

“Do not wear yourself out in quest of wealth, stop applying your mind to this. Fix your gaze on it, and it is there no longer, for it is able to sprout wings like an eagle that flies off to the sky” (Proverbs 23: 4-5).

 

Carl Kanowsky of Kanowsky & Associates is an attorney in the Santa Clarita Valley. He may be reached by email at cjk@kanowskylaw.com. Nothing contained herein shall be or is intended to be construed as providing legal advice.

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2 Comments

  1. Jerry Walgamuth says:

    Great article Carl! What happened with the scammer?

  2. Carl Kanowsky says:

    Jerry,

    He never responded to my email when I told him about my phone call to corporate headquarters.

    Carl

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