WASHINGTON, June 28, 2014 — Television character Jed Clampett (Beverly Hillbillies, 1962-1971) discovered oil when shooting for some food and became an instant millionaire.
Television allows us to believe in miracles. Reality was depicted in a recent popular movie, Nebraska, which featured Bruce Dern as an elderly semi-alcoholic fellow intent upon collecting on a $1 million sweepstakes prize he believed he won.
The expression “not born yesterday” applies to an overwhelming majority of us — for some, experience prevents us from falling prey to scams and for others, even the smallest bit of suspicion works. Clearly there are some very sophisticated scams that have taken place (from Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme to clever emails disguised as communications from the IRS), and many highly intelligent, careful and suspicious people have become victims.
An attorney in Des Moines, Iowa, fell for one of the oldest scams of our modern Internet era. Robert Allen Wright, Jr. represented an alleged criminal, Floyd Madison, who couldn’t pay Wright’s fee.
So Madison provided Wright with documents that showed that Madison could inherit nearly $19 million from a long-lost relative in Nigeria and he asked Wright to represent him to help him secure the transfer of the funds from Nigeria. The catch was that to get the funds, $177,000 in inheritance taxes needed to be paid.
Wright agreed to represent Madison for ten percent of the promised Nigerian inheritance.
A popular legal website, Abovethelaw.com, asks which is worse: to be unethical or to be stupid — really, really, stupid?
Wright, of course, did not have the money to pay the inheritance taxes. So he persuaded numerous of his other clients to make loans to him.
Court records reveal that Wright spoke to someone on the telephone pretending to be the President of Nigeria. Wright sent the money.
Obviously, Wright never secured the funds from Nigeria for his client, nor did he ever repay his clients who gave him the loans. The clients reported him to the state bar association, where eventually formal grievance charges were brought for numerous ethical violations (it is improper to borrow money from clients, particularly to assist another client).
One of the ethics violation charges — “assisting a client in conduct known to be illegal or fraudulent” — was dismissed by the Disciplinary Board, as their finding was “Wright appears to have honestly believed — and continues to believe — that one day a trunk full of . . . one hundred dollar bills is going to appear upon his office doorstep.”
The Board told the Iowa Grievance Commission that Wright’s conduct might be “delusional,” but it was not fraudulent.
The Iowa Supreme Court’s Grievance Commission recommended that Wright’s license to practice law be suspended. This result would have ended the matter, allowing Wright to move on “off the record.” Unfortunately Wright’s “off” thinking continued. He appealed the Commission’s recommendation, leaving himself open to being sanctioned and humiliated on a much larger scale by the Iowa Supreme Court. The Iowa Supreme Court then publicly suspended him for a year.
Lawyer jokes cannot be more harmful to the profession than a story like Wright’s.
A comment found on Abovethelaw.com following their reporting Wright’s case:
Every year, more and more people pay $100,000+ for a law degree that is supposed to return $1,000,000, and no one ever makes fun of them.
If an attorney is “supposed” to know better (remember attorneys are one of a group of professionals that are supposed to practice “due diligence”), it might be easier to understand how a non-professional might get duped. Nonetheless, number two in the “you are kidding, he really fell for that?” category is the recent unbelievable gullible story of Mir Chowdhury of Wolcott, Connecticut.
Mir got a telephone call from someone claiming to be with the IRS. They told him he owed about $12,000 in back taxes. He was told not to provide a credit card or a check, but that he was to call back with gift card numbers from various area stores. The caller told Mir that if he provided $4,500 in gift cards his debt would be considered paid in full.
Mir was told, and he believed, he would be arrested if he did not comply. Mir delivered the gift cards as instructed.
Seniors are the most targeted group of people, by a wide margin. Next are individuals who may be somewhat cognitively impaired, which includes seniors. Other “target” groups of people include those who are new to this country and have neither experience nor an innate sense of suspicion. Many victims express that they believed their scammers – some of us just have a belief in humanity’s goodness.
Do not loan your attorney any money. Do not believe anything concerning taxes or other alleged “debts” until you check it out. Legitimate debt collectors do not send emails to notify you, nor do they make telephone calls. Get references from people you know before hiring contractors or service industry people. Finally, please pay attention, and please help those around you if you believe them to be susceptible to being in the “you are kidding, he really fell for that?” category.
Come listen to a story about a man named Jed
A poor mountaineer, barely kept his family fed,
Then one day he was shootin’ at some food,
And up from the ground came a bubblin’ crude.
Oil that is, black gold, Texas tea.
Well the first thing you know ol’ Jed’s a millionaire,
His kinfolk said, ‘Jed, move away from there!’
They said, ‘Californy is the place you oughtta be.’
So, they loaded up the truck and moved to Beverly.
Television and movies can make us laugh (Hillbillies), and cry (Nebraska) when we are confronted with unrealistic visions. If it is too good to be true…
Paul A. Samakow is an attorney licensed in Maryland and Virginia, and has been practicing since 1980. He represents injury victims and routinely battles insurance companies and big businesses that will not accept full responsibility for the harms and losses they cause. He can be reached at any time by calling 1-866-SAMAKOW (1-866-726-2569), via email, or through his website.
His new book “Who Will Pay My Auto Accident Bills?, The Most Comprehensive Nationwide Auto Accident Resolution Book, Ever” can be reviewed on http://www.completeaccidentbook.com and can be ordered there, or obtained directly on Amazon: Click here to order
Mr. Samakow’s “Don’t Text and Drive” campaign, El Textarudo, has become nationally recognized. Please visit the website http://www.textarudo.com and “like” the concept on the Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/textarudo.
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