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Schinister Doing

by John Haywood


About a month ago, my mother (Laura Haywood) got the following letter:

>----- Original Message -----
>From: idris bello
>Sent: Friday, November 09, 2001 12:29 PM
>Subject: urgent/strictly confidential

> Dear Sir/Madam,

Permit me to introduce myself to you. My Name is Mr. Bello Idris, Manager with Ecobank Plc, Lagos-Nigeria. I came to know about you in my private search for a reliable person/company to handle a confidential transaction on behalf of my Colleagues and myself and as a matter of fact, I got your contact from a close Associate of mine who works with the Nigerian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. He gave me the assurance that you can be trusted to handle a transaction of this magnitude.

A German Mr. Wolfgang Schinister, 66 years of age and a prosperous farmer had in our Bank the sum of US$41m in a domiciliary account. He named his wife, Mrs. Helga Schinister as the next of kin. Unfortunately, two of them were killed in the recent plane crash involving concord AF4590 in Gonesse, France. Effort had been made by the management of my Bank through the German Embassy in Lagos to contact any of the deceased children but to no avail, as we were made to understand that the couple had no child owing to the skeletal information available to the Bank, it has so far been impossible to reach any of the relatives. The option left for the Bank management is to declare the deceased account dormant and revert the funds to trading on behalf of and in the interest of the Bank.

In order to avoid this development, my Colleagues and I now seek your permission to have you stand as a distant relative to Mr. and Mrs. Wolfgang Schinister, so that the funds would be released to you. All documents and proofs to enable you get the funds will be carefully worked out on our receiving your consent to this proposal, we would immediately obtain for an order of mandamus from the Federal High Court of Justice on your behalf recognizing you as a bona-fide relative to the deceased and subsequent apply for the release of the funds to you as the beneficiary, through the Central Bank Of Nigeria.

May I assured you that this Transaction is 100% risk-free, as we have taken care of all necessary modalities to ensure a hitch-free transaction.

If this proposal is acceptable to you, please contact me strictly through my

Therefore, what we actually require from you is your Banking Particulars i.e. Bank Name, Address, Account Number, where the fund US$41m shall be transferred into, Telephone and Fax Number of the Bank; your Company Name and Contact Address. As soon as we receive this information, we shall immediately commence the processing of the transfer into your nominated Bank Account.

To this effect my colleagues and I have agreed to compensate you with 20% of the total sum US$41m.

Best Regards.

Bello Idris <

The man must think my mother is an idiot to try this one. Since she is actually very intelligent, she hadn't finished reading the e-mail before she figured out it's a scam. Knowing I informally collect scam letters, she forwarded it to me. I have so many stock pump-and-dumps that I no longer save those (curious, as my portfolio is rather empty at the moment) and a couple attempts to steal my password, but this was my first real example of the Nigerian money drop.

Not wanting to leave well enough alone (and being a sucker for puns—I liked the name Wolfgang Schinister), I replied. I set up a web e-mail address (as untraceable as Mr. Idris' Yahoo account) complete with pseudonym, and sent the following:

-----Original Message-----
From: Jean DuBois
Date: Monday, November 11, 2001
Subject: I am very interested in your proposal

From the office of Jean DuBois

Wolfgang Schinister Estate Holdings and Distribution
Sequim, WA

Dear Mr. Idris:

I happen to be the financial agent in charge of Mr. Wolfgang Schinister's interests in North America. Indeed, I am also a very distant relative of his (a 53rd cousin, to be exact). I am surprised that you didn't mention this in your e-mail, but your friend at the Nigerian Chamber of Commerce and Industry must have known and thus referred you to me for that reason. I am also surprised that you had my personal e-mail address, but not my business e-mail. No matter. Mr. Schinister was a nickel magnate, noted rat breeder, and, dare I say, Penthouse Legend. My principal duties were supervising his American interests. This was no small task, as these interests included the third largest iridium mine in Florida, the largest beet farm in Nevada (by area), several oil wells in New Jersey, significant real estate holdings in Galt's Gulch, CO, the Western Railroad of Nebraska, and his rat breeding operations. (This last was his real passion. The rat race has lost a true leader.)

As you know, Mr. Schinister was very wealthy; this goes without saying since he had a US$41,000,000 bank account. Sadly, however, he was also very disorganized. When Mr. and Mrs. Schinister passed away, I, and my Argentinean, French, Japanese, and Norwegian counterparts had to piece together his finances. None of us had a clear picture of all his interests, and sadly, some assets have been lost already. A bank account in New Zealand worth NZ$3,500,000 was inactive too long, and has been turned over to the City of Auckland. We located his stock in British Airways only after the company went bankrupt. Of a more personally troubling nature, his coal mine in Afghanistan was illegally seized by the Taliban for use as a military base shortly after Mr. Schinister's death, and last week, it was my solemn duty to give permission to the Navy to bomb it; we expect that asset is also a total loss. Needless to say, we suspect other assets may have already been lost and we fear even more will be jeopardized if we cannot act.

Unfortunately, due to the recent anti-terrorism act, I am unable to give you my bank account information, since it is now a third-grade felony to give foreign nationals US financial information for transactions conducted on behalf of other foreign nationals, and, as you are aware, Mr. Schinister was German and his heir is Canadian. (His only son, Fritz Schinister, died in 1976 in a freak accident while on a fishing trip to the East River in New York. Mr. Hans Gruber of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan—Mr. Schinister's brother-in-law—is the lawful heir. It is not surprising that the German embassy did not mention Mr. Gruber. Though originally from Cologne, Mr. Gruber emigrated to Canada in 1984, and, as you are well aware, tensions between those two countries are higher than we'd all like to admit.)

However, if you are interested in resolving this matter, please send travel expenses of US $9,346.10 in cash, money order, or a check made out to "cash" to my attorney, Aurora Monroe. If you respond and are interested, she will contact you with further information. She is a lawyer with the noted law firm of Flywheel, Shyster, and Flywheel PA—and that firm's reputation alone should be adequate to verify that this transaction is legitimate. Upon receipt of this amount, Mr Schinister's Norwegian agent, Mr. Henrik Ibsen, will send his apprentice, Sir Darth Maul, to Nigeria to straighten out the matter. (I apologize for having to send Sir Maul; normally, African interests would fall under the province of Mr. Jean Valjean of Montreuil, France. Mr. Valjean, however, is on a yak hunt in Nepal, and is in communicado until next May. I would come to Nigeria myself, but the travel expenses would be much higher since I'd have to fly out of Los Angeles, and, as an American national, it would be almost imperative to hire security personnel.)

In return for your cooperation, Mr. Schinister's estate is prepared to pay you a commission in the amount of ten percent (10%) of the total amount in the account. This can be handled by Sir. Maul when he arrives in your country. If the deal proceeds smoothly, I am even authorized to make you the agent for the Schinister estate in Nigeria, which would entitle you to ten percent (10%) of all Schinister assets in Africa.

Thank you for your honesty.

Sincerely, Jean DuBois

A note of explanation on the more arcane references: Flywheel, Shyster, and Flywheel was the name of the law firm on the Marx Brothers' radio show in the '30s, Penthouse Legend was the original title of Ayn Rand's play Night of January 16th, and 53rd Cousin is, according to some geneticist/anthropologist who was on TV a couple of years ago, the most distant possible relationship between any two people. Sequim is a real town in Washington, but the name is pronounced Squim—which should confuse anyone. As far as I know, British Airways is not and never was bankrupt—if this is not so, it only proves I don't read the news often enough.

So far, my dummy Internet account has gotten several pieces of spam.

A woman from Sweden did send me an e-mail as she was referred to that address by her dating service. Is my would-be Swedish girlfriend really a crooked Nigerian banker? I don't know; I was kind of suspicious, since it would be dumb to give a fake address to a dating service and I've never used one. So far we've been cordial towards each other, though neither of us has really said anything, unless her account's auto-response in Swedish means more than it suggests.

Alas, Bello Idris has disappeared back into the mists of the Internet. Probably, good riddance.


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