Alleged thief falls for Nigerian scam

Sept. 19, 2008 at 3:03 PM
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NEW YORK, Sept. 19 (UPI) -- A New York stockbroker has been charged with stealing from his clients and sending some of his ill-gotten gains to a con artist using the Nigerian e-mail scam.

Michael Axel, a broker with Tripp & Co., entered a plea of innocent Thursday to forgery and grand larceny, the New York Post reported.

Prosecutors said that Axel fell for an e-mail offering in 2005 from someone claiming to be a Nigerian lawyer. The typical e-mail asks for help moving a large amount of cash with the victim having to put up some of his own money to set up bank accounts.

"Yes, he fell for that scam," Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau said. "It's a classic example of a con man getting conned."

Morgenthau alleged that Axel began stealing in 2003, requesting checks for his clients and then forging their signatures and depositing the money in his own account. His alleged victims included a retired teacher, a 90-year-old woman and an 83-year-old man suffering from dementia and his daughter, who was dying from ovarian cancer.

Tripp & Co. has made up its clients' losses, and Axel has made restitution of about half the amount. A hearing was scheduled in November for "possible disposition," suggesting a plea bargain.

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