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E-mail Scam Relies on Real 9/11 Victim's Name

By Nicole Bode | November 17, 2009 7:26am | Updated on November 17, 2009 7:45am
Award-winning TV producer David Angell, who died when his plane was piloted into the World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001.
Award-winning TV producer David Angell, who died when his plane was piloted into the World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001.
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American Screenwriters Association

By Nicole Bode and Joe Valiquette

DNAinfo Reporter/Producers

MANHATTAN — An e-mail scammer is trying to prop up his bogus story by using the name of a real September 11 terror attack victim in an attempt to lure fortune-hungry marks.

Emmy-award-winning TV producer David Angell, 55, and his wife Lynn Edwards Angell were passengers on American Airlines Flight 11, the first plane to be piloted by terrorists into the World Trade Center in 2001.  

The American Screenwriters Association created an annual humanitarian award in honor of Angell, who created classic shows like "Frasier," "Cheers" and "Wings." Musician Sting and actors Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith have been among the winners.

But now Angell is the centerpiece of what law enforcement experts call a typical Nigerian e-mail scam, in this case purporting to be from a California banker claiming to have access to $58.2 million from Angell’s "secret account." 

"Mr. David Angell and the wife died in world trade center as a victim of the September 11, 2001 incident that befell the United States of America," the e-mail reads.

"Since his death, no next of kin of the account holder nor any relative of him has shown up for the claim…  This is where I am interested and where I want you to come in. I want you to come in as the relation of the deceased…

"Do not be bothered that you are not related in any way to him as I am in position to affix your name as the next of kin. The whole Procedures will last only 9 working days to get the fund retrieved successfully without trace even in future."

The hoaxer then offers to split the millions 60-40 with the recipient

DNAinfo forwarded the e-mail to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center as part of a formal complaint. Officials at FBI’s New York office said they could not investigate the e-mail because no crime had yet been committed.

Agent Andre Cicero, of the FBI’s Cyber Crime Squad, said it was not the first time he'd seen the World Trade Center tragedy used in an e-mail scam.

Cicero called the spammers "savvy social engineers … who watch the news and who routinely use a national tragedy, whether it be Hurricane Katrina or 9/11, to take advantage of people's emotions or greed to perpetrate the fraud."

In a typical Nigerian e-mail scam, spammers use a cover story in an attempt to convince their victims to release personal information, such as phone numbers and home addresses. That information can then be used to steal the victim’s identity. The scammers also pressure victims to send money in anticipation of the false payout.

"Just to use his name in that vein is heinous," said lawyer Donald Migliori, who represented Angell’s family after his death.

"This is the first I’ve heard of it. Based on what you’re telling me, I know they don’t know anything about Mr. Angell or his trust."

The e-mail claims to be from bank manager Donald Leung of the Bank of East Asia, San Francisco branch, and was sent Nov. 3 from the e-mail address leungdvd@gmail.com.

A Bank of East Asia branch manager by the same name and work address told DNAinfo he did not send the e-mail, did not recogize Angell's name, and does not have a gmail e-mail account. Law enforcement officials do not believe Leung is actually the source of the e-mail.

"Definitely, I don't think I have sent any email to anybody about this," David Leung said. "My name, my position, everything is correct. However... those are public information."