Iowa Lawyer Taps Clients For Over $200,000 To Acquire $18.8 Million Nigerian Fortune . . . Suspended For Only A Year

eddie-murphyYesterday, 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

29 thoughts on “Iowa Lawyer Taps Clients For Over $200,000 To Acquire $18.8 Million Nigerian Fortune . . . Suspended For Only A Year”

  1. N’est-ce pas l’Iowa où la hauteur du maïs se développe et les gens sont à court et stupide?

  2. I honestly believe this guy was working his own kind of Ponzi scheme, and he should be prosecuted. RICO?

  3. From the “ABA Journal” link:

    “The court said Wright is not the first lawyer in the state to become entangled in Nigerian schemes.”

    Shaking my head…

  4. DBG,

    What computer/device are you using? Do you have access to the ctrl key? Try ctrl with the minus sign to reduce the print, then ctrl with the + sign to increase it. This may not help you, but…

  5. I received a version of this scam for selling real estate in China. I didn’t even know what I’d “won” until this kind person translated it for me!

  6. “It is the village idiot defense but in this case the subject is an attorney ”

    And the difference would be…?

  7. Man… It was thus easy…. Ok… I will sell you my interest in my inheritance from Nigeria…..for a mere 250k….payable US dollars….cash…..

  8. On a related note, I have a 91 year old aunt that has lost $ thousands to various scammers. She still believes we prevented her from getting a multi million $ lottery because we wouldn’t pay the next installment of $5,000 to stay in the lottery.

  9. He should be required to have a plaque on his office door that says “I honestly believe that one day a trunk full of one hundred dollar bills is going to appear upon my office doorstep.” See how many clients walk through that door.

  10. I may have told this before but I had to go to fee dispute agaist a lawyer who did essentially no work, relying primarily on pro se work. Fee dispute “awarded” very low 5 figures to me. The decision stated the “award” that it was I who received it and then went on to write that they found “in the lawyer’s favor” so there was no record that he lost. Lawyers protect each other no less then doctors (and probably other professions as well)

  11. Went in dumb, come out dumb too.
    Hustlin round Altanta in his alligator shoes.
    Drunk on the weekends at the barbeques.
    He is keepin Nigerians down.
    We’re Rednecks, Rednecks.
    We don’t know an arse from a hole in the ground. etc

    – Randy Newman. Rednecks, from Good Ol Boys album

    Do NOT let this numbskull practice law.

  12. Wow. To quote Robert Heinlein’s Original Razor, “You have attributed conditions to villainy that simply result from stupidity.” This guy shouldn’t be allowed to represent himself let alone a client.

  13. Actually the use of what seems to be obvious to anyone over age 6 that the Nigerian Fortune e-mails are all frauds, it is a gauge of how foolish and gullible the victim is and it automatically because the lack of reply to the e-mail is the action taken by those who are smart enough not to be deceived, and therefore a waste of time for the scammer. So what replies back to the email has been culled from a vast crop of people, the dumbest of the dumb remain, out of millions of others who know scams from Shinola.

    Well, I guess this lawyer gets back to work in a year he could put on his resume that he is a student of International Con Law.

  14. Somewhere out there in the internets is a story posted by a man who was creative enough to con a “Nigerian scammer” into sending him money after the scammer sent him an email. That story was the best story I’ve read about these scammers. I read it maybe 5-6 years ago and lost the link a while ago.

    As for this attorney, If he has an otherwise “clean” record, I would entertain the possibility of him resuming the practice of law at some point in the future, probably five years from the date of suspension, conditioned on him making specified restitution payments to the clients from whom he “borrowed” funds and conditioned on him being able to demonstrate good character and pass an examination regarding conflicts of interest at the time he seeks reinstatement to active practice. Whether I would ultimately allow him to practice law in the future would depend on his showing five years down the road and whether he walked the line between now and then. But I would give him the opportunity to establish that he is fit to practice law at that point in time.

    A one year suspension is not sufficient punishment for his misconduct. If he does not have a “clean” record, yank his license for good.

  15. I don’t know about Wright, but if the board believes his story please tell the board I have a friend who can get them a very good deal on their utility bills this winter.

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