Yesterday, we discussed a case of a former law student who got off lightly after being found to have been practicing law without a license. We can now add an Iowa lawyer to the list of the fortunate among bar defendants. Robert Allan Wright Jr. arranged for various people to give him money to secure inheritance of $18.8 million from a mysterious long-lost Nigerian cousin. Most people above the age of six would immediately scoff at the classic Nigerian scam, but the Iowa Supreme Court found that Wright not only believed the scam to be true but still believes that it is true. It is the village idiot defense but in this case the subject is an attorney who secured loans of thousands from clients. Now here is the most disturbing fact: Wright was not disbarred. He was suspended, leaving open the possibility that he will represent people in the future.
Wright’s father, Robert Wright Sr., is a well-known civil rights attorney in Iowa and ranked as one of the “Ten most influential black Iowans.”
The opinion below details the facts of the Nigerian inheritance scam.
What is fascinating is that Wright was pulled into the scam by a criminal defendant client.
Floyd Lee Madison in a criminal case in 2011, Wright was presented with documents purporting to evidence that Madison was the beneficiary of a large bequest from his long-lost cousin in Nigeria. Madison represented to Wright that upon payment of $177,660 in taxes owed on the inheritance in Nigeria, the sum of $18,800,000 would be released to Madison. He asked Wright to represent him in securing the transfer of the funds from Nigeria. In consideration for a fee equal to ten percent of the funds recovered, Wright agreed to represent Madison in the Nigerian transaction.
A bad start got worse when Wright then turned to clients who “might have funds that Madison could borrow for the purpose of paying the taxes and fees on the Nigerian funds.” He proceeded to tap various clients to pay “$177,660 in Nigerian inheritance taxes” and an “anti-terrorism certificate.”
Wright secured more than $200,000 in loans from five current and former clients — promising a 400 percent profit. He says that he spoke with Nigerian lawyers and bankers and even the president of Nigeria. His client, who traveled to Spain for a fee to acquire two suitcases full of cash, remained active in the effort. There is no word of any criminal charges.
The court says that Wright only did a cursory search into the alleged “anti-terrorism certificate.” Likewise, consider Wright’s conversation with a “diplomat” about those suitcases full of money. The diplomat demanded payment of €25,600 for his “logistic charges” but did not know of a local bank and gave the following ungrammatical advice to violate customs laws.
I don’t know of any Bank here, beside, I will suggest you come with the administrative Logistic charges for the clearance which is €25,600 (Twenty-Five Thousand Six Hundred Euros) in your baggage, have it hide in your trouser’s and have the trouser fold careful package in your luggage, so that it will be easy to proceed to custom safe storage house facilities office here to pay and pick up receipt for immediate delivery of your two trunk boxes.
Now here is the kicker. The Iowa Supreme Court Attorney Disciplinary Board had concluded that 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.”
Now many would be tempted to conclude that, regardless of whether Wright is a criminal or a moron, he should not be representing people. This concern over his judgment is manifested in the fact that he still believes that there is a trunk full of money out there from a Nigerian windfall.
However, the Court suspended him for only a year for this misconduct.
What do you think? Should Wright be allowed to resume work as an attorney?
Here is the opinion: 13-0167 order suspending
Source: ABA Journal