Beware!!! New Antic of Defrauding Lawyers

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Photo Credit: Finer Points

Last week, I was in my office neck deep into an appellate brief when I got a call from one of my undergraduate course mates. She practices outside my jurisdiction. After exchanging pleasantries, she told me she would be forwarding my contact to her friend who needed an “Igbo” female lawyer based in Lagos. Immediately I heard this, my tenth sense was awakened. For every lawyer, the information that your contact would be forwarded to a prospective client has a special feeling in the subconscious. It’s only a tenth sense that processes the reaction.

After two days, I got a call from a man. He introduced himself and confirmed he got my contact from my undergraduate course mate. I was very polite with him on the phone, trying to ensure I make a good impression of myself. He told me he is actually not the person who needs a lawyer but his younger brother in Onitsha. My morale dropped two inches. He said he called to also get to know me and to inform me he would be forwarding my contact to his younger brother. I told him he could. That was the end of our conversation.

Two days after, I got a call from another man. He introduced himself as the younger brother to the man who had called me earlier. Again, I was very polite with him on the phone, trying to ensure I make a good impression of myself. The man told me he is an apprentice.  He began with just being a sales boy in an electronic shop and had learnt how to repair fridges in addition to trading with some of his money within the market space. He then said has been able to save up N15, 000,000 over the past 10 years that he has been working. First the mention of N15, 000,000 came as a surprise, nay, it was a shock. But because I understand how my Igbo brothers could be enterprising, I reasoned that for 10 years and with the kinds of deals they engage in as apprentices, it may not be out of place. Even though I was still battling with my very sensitive mind, I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. I asked some preliminary questions, which were just aimed at subduing my conscience and he responded to all the questions with so much precision and passion that got me so impressed. I guess I was also able to convince my conscience that we are just trying to help an enterprising young man here.

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When I asked why the choice of investing in Lagos, he gave me the most brilliant response. “Because, first I was brought to Lagos, Alaba International to be precise. I was in Lagos for 5 years and it was because my Oga needed me to stay in the east to assist with coupling and repairing some of the minor electronics that he sent me down to Onitsha. I intend to relocate to Lagos as soon as I am through.” That was his response. It made a lot of sense. I then asked him what sort of investment he was looking at and he indicated that I could help him acquire a land and possible assist in engaging engineers to build on it. He said I would be his lawyer for the investment and every other investments that he ever decides to make. I discussed fees with him and told him I would be charging N1,500,000 for my services and he agreed. To me, as much as it looked like a good brief, my sixth sense kept fighting with the tenth sense and some level of suspicion was raised and maintained within me.

All the while he was anxious to wire the money. I was wondering why someone who has never met me would be so eager to wire money into my account. Each time the idea comes, I brush it aside with the fact that this guy had a pointer person who introduced us. I was taking things easy trying to seek further assurances. Then I figured what to do.  I told him I would forward the Firm’s account details but told him that before the money is disbursed for anything, he would need to fill a KYC form and send me his valid means of identification. I also told him that he would need to do a formal letter instructing me on what to do for him as his lawyer. He said he can’t write and I told him I would do a draft for him and he would read and sign. He did not have any problem with that.

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The man didn’t send the money as he had indicated and I actually did not even notice. After about two weeks, I got a call from him and he started making excuses, said he has become very busy in his master’s shop and couldn’t go to the bank to send the money. He said he expected that I called to find out why he did not send the money as indicated.  He then said the weirdest thing I have ever heard in my life. He said he would put the N15,000,000 in a suitcase and then put inside a freezer and then lock the freezer and he would send one of their delivery vehicles coming to Lagos to deliver the freezer to Lagos. At that point, the entirety of my senses started fighting themselves. The message was not settling down well at all. I immediately told him, if he can’t pay the money into the Firm’s account and come to Lagos to fill the KYC Form, then I wouldn’t be able to help him. He started trying to justify how it is not a big deal to send the money and all what not. At a point when we were both not communicating, I disengaged the call. Since then, he never called back.

Just yesterday, I ran into an old friend who is also a lawyer and we got talking, trying to catch up. Along the line, he told me how he was defrauded of N5,000,000. The story he told was exactly the narrative I gave above. The difference is that he agreed that the fraudster send the money in a freezer to him. He told me that the offer was just too good for him at the time. When the freezer got to Lagos, he went to the location he was told the freezer was delivered. Upon getting to the location, some fierce looking men rounded him up. They paraded themselves as policemen and told my friend that they had been investigating the person who sent the freezer. The “policemen” told my friend that he needs to bail himself with the sum of N5,000,000 because they realized he is a lawyer and truly innocent. They told him that the person who sent the freezer killed about 10 people in the process of taking the money and they were sure he has a group he was working with. They threatened that if my friend didn’t bring the N5,000,000 immediately, they would have no choice than to arrest him, take him along to Onitsha where he would be charged for murder and armed robbery.

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Already perplexed, my friend had to call family and friends to get N5, 000,000 to “bail” himself. It was after the “policemen” left with the money that he realized he has just been defrauded and also heard stories like this.

Lawyers beware! Times are really bad.

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