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My 2 cents on an old scam


Most of you probably have received the e-mail from the guy claiming

to be an African attorney sitting on a boatload of cash. According to

the e-mail, all you have to do is send him a little bit of personal


information, and all that dough will be yours. Some versions of the

scam ask for details about your bank account right off the bat.

Others just ask for contact information -- the point being to first

build up your confidence before springing the trap.


I must have opened and deleted this e-mail 100 times, each time

shaking my head at the unmitigated shamelessness of these snakes that

lurk beneath the surface of the Superhighway. But for some reason, I

opened one this week and actually decided to respond.

Below is an abridged version of the original e-mail (typos,

tortured English and all), along with my reply.

Dear Sir:

I am Barrister Umlatte Mustapha, An Attorney at Law and Legal



I am the personal Attorney to Mr. Richard Smak, a National of your

country, who used to work with Standard Development Company in


On the 21st of April 2001, my client, his wife and their three

Children were involved in a fatal car Accident along Sagamu Express

Road. All occupants of the vehicle unfortunately lost their lives.

Since then I have made several inquires to your Embassy to locate


any of my late clients extended Relatives this has also proved

unsuccessful. I have contacted you to assist in repatriating the

money and property left behind by my client before they get

confiscated or declared unserviceable by the bank here this huge

deposit were lodged.

Particularly, the National Bank of Nigeria PLC where the deceased

had an account valued at about (U.S. $13,000.000.00) Thirteen million

United States Dollars has issued me a Final notice to provide the

Next of Kin or have the Account confiscated within the next 21

working days.

Since I have been unsuccessful in locating the relatives for over

1 year now I seek your consent to present you as the next of kin of

the deceased since you bear the same last name with the deceased so

that the proceeds of this account valued at (U.S. $13,000.000.00)

Thirteen million United States Dollars. This can be paid to you and

then you and me can share the money, all necessary legal documents

will be in place that can be used to back up any claim we may make.

All I require is your honest cooperation to enable us see this

deal through. Please do get in touch with me for more details, once I

have your consent and trust then we can proceed immediately.

With my best regards,

Barrister Umlatte Mustapha.

Dear Umlatte,

What a heart-wrenching story! You wouldn’t think someone named

Smak would be so hard to locate! Have you tried “Googling” the name?

If that doesn’t work, you should get that guy from Eyewitness News

involved, the one who does those “Seven on Your Side” segments. I

think it’s so sweet of you to want me to be part of Mr. Smak’s

family. This is like one of those “Chicken Soup for the Soul” stories

I read, the one where the woman who’s allergic to dogs adopts the

village mutt. Or maybe it was the other way around.

To think, a Nigerian barrister would go so far out of his way to

do the right thing by a dead oil company executive. That’s pretty

noble of you, Umlatte. It just burns me up that the National Bank of

Nigeria would want to seize Mr. Smak’s hard-earned fortune. What

would Nigeria do with $13 million, anyway? I mean besides fixing the

Sagamu Express Road, which I gather from your letter is where poor

Mr. Smak and his family met their untimely ends. Had the government

been more concerned about fixing potholes than stealing dead oil

executives’ money, you wouldn’t be in this situation today! But as

much as your story has touched my heart, I’m afraid I just can’t

accept your kind offer to be Mr. Smak’s next of kin. I already come

from a large family myself, and can’t just go getting myself related

to every rich oil man that comes along.

Plus, I don’t even want to think about what kind of tax bracket

this would put me in! Yeah, sure, we’re talking about (U.S.

$13,000,000.00) Thirteen million United States Dollars, but you can

only stretch a (U.S. $1) buck so far these days. If you think living

in Nigeria’s expensive, boy! You should try renting a two-bedroom in

Southern California!

Where would the world be without good Samaritans like yourself,

Umlatte? You must sleep the untroubled sleep of innocence. Surely,

God has written your name in a book somewhere, and rest assured, my

friend, one day he’s going to throw it right at you. Just you wait

and see.

Anyway, I don’t want keep you from your important barristering

work, so I’ll be off. Good luck on your search for Mr. Smak!



P.S. Just between us fence posts, Umlatte, you should really think

about getting yourself a new typist.

* DAVID SILVA, a Burbank resident, is a Times Community News

editor. Reach him at (909) 484-7019, or by e-mail at