Manhattan couple sues lawyer for not protecting them from hackers who stole $1.9 million
A Manhattan couple is suing their lawyer, whose AOL email account was hacked, causing the couple to wire a $1.9 million down payment to an account taken over by scammers.
Robert Millard, a managing partner at Realm Partners, and his wife, Bethany, blame their real estate attorney, Patricia Doran, for “cybercriminals” stealing the 10 percent deposit intended for a Manhattan co-op they were buying for $19.4 million, according to a new lawsuit filed in New York State Supreme Court.
However, the couple were able to learn of the scam before their lawyer did, and were able to recover all but $196,000 of their transferred funds. They are seeking that sum and additional damages in their lawsuit.
But the Millards claim that Long Island real estate lawyer Patricia Doran was computer negligent and failed to take basic steps to secure her computer and protect them from an elaborate wire fraud.
The Millards claim Doran should have done more to protect her email:
The lack of basic cybersecurity measures or awareness also meant that this hack was not detected by Doran. These cybercriminals then learned when and how the Millards intended to pay for the Apartment, knowledge that permitted them to pose as the seller’s attorneys, and thereby steal the Millards’ money.
The Manhattan Supreme Court suit says, “Through her negligence, she permitted cybercriminals to hack into her email system and read and intercept all of her communications.”
It accuses Doran of forwarding bogus emails from the hackers who were imitating the seller of the apartment’s attorney about payments from the Millards without checking their legitimacy last December. The couple also claims Doran failed to detect a fake confirmation email from the scammers even though it contained several “red flags,” including misspelling of attorney names and a message that it would be impossible to reach the sellers’ lawyers.
The couple also stated that Doran did not react upon receiving a fax from the seller’s real attorneys that mentioned the contract would not be complete until receipt of a down payment.
The couple had taken the services of Doran to handle the purchase of a co-op apartment with a selling price of $19.3 million.
Doran has an AOL email account that the suit contends is “notoriously vulnerable” to hacking.
The hackers reportedly learned when and how the Millards were going to buy the apartment and sent them emails posing as the seller in order to steal their money, the suit states.
The missing funds were transferred by the hackers to a bank in China.