Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Harvard Prof Scams $600,000, Hands it to 419ers

Uh oh. Looks like even Harvard men aren't immune to Nigerian mind-games.

A US scientist who collected $600,000 for SARS research in China from students, colleagues and friends, actually handed the money over to Nigerian 419ers, the Boston Herald reports.

Former Dana-Farber Cancer Institute researcher and Harvard University professor Weldong Xu, 38, was contacted by the lads from Lagos and promised $50m in quick profit.

We assume that the usual "unforseen expenses" scenario soon kicked in, since Xu began to solicit funds for his philanthropic far-eastern venture.

Among the 35 individuals who fell for the scam was a friend who remortgaged his house to support Xu's initiative. Boston police detective Steve Blair noted: "These are co-workers who trusted him and believed in him and took him for his word."

Xu was uncovered after employers Dana-Farber fingered him to police over the affair. Unhappily for the criminal mastermind, he was spotted arguing with one scammee in the Dana-Farber canteen by another victim who was at the time being interviewed by police.

The cuffs slapped on, Xu 'fessed up and handed police a book containing details of his shameful fleecings.

Xu would not, however, admit that he had himself been played like a cheap violin by the Nigerians. "The scammer's been scammed," said detective Blair. "He wouldn't acknowledge he'd been scammed. I tried to tell him he'd been scammed, but he never caught on."

I don't know who to be more irritated by when I read stories like this one: the scammers who help to give all of their fellow Nigerians an ugly reputation, or the greedy fools who allow themselves to be taken in by their pitches. This was a Harvard professor, for goodness sake!