by Ted L Glines
On CSPAN last night, Jonathan Fanton, President of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, spoke about his foundation's work in building bridges between America and foreign nations. And their efforts in Nigeria appeared to be a primary focus. Fanton had much to say about working with Nigerian officials to build growth programs in this third-world country.
I found myself recalling the four people I know who have been victimized by Nigerian scammers. One of them, Marian, is a dear friend who lives in a nearby city. A Nigerian had mailed her several American Express travelers cheques with instructions for her to cash them, keep several hundred dollars for herself, and then to send the ($4,000+) remaining balance to a name and address in Ohio. It seemed to be a wonderful “gift” and Marian followed the instructions. Of course, the money orders were worthless and Marian soon found herself confronted by two FBI agents. Bank fraud is serious business.
This sort of thing has been going on for many years. By now, most Americans know someone who has been scammed by a Nigerian. Even eBay has become a target. Who has not received a Nigerian plea to help with stealing a few million dollars, cleverly hidden away by a deceased husband?
I pondered the positioning of the MacArthur Foundation, their agents working every day with Nigerian government people. Ah ...
Within minutes, I was looking up “Jonathan Fanton” on Google, a search which went directly to his foundation and an email address for their headquarters in Nigeria. Choosing my words very carefully, I constructed a communication which might have a chance of sparking some conversation between their agents and (possibly) even be conveyed by them to Nigerian government people. The content of this communication is copied below.
The FBI has tons of open files on the Nigerian scams. I have talked with several FBI agents. They told me that every day brought in a new batch of victim complaints, but their hands were tied. The scam perpetrators are Nigerian citizens. Those fraudulant scams are illegal in Nigeria, but the Nigerian officials will not prosecute the criminals, and the Nigerian government will not cooperate with American or European law enforcement agencies. The FBI feels that there is nothing they can do. Sooner or later, this will become a State Department concern. Probably later.
This letter was emailed to the MacArthur Foundation headquarters in Nigeria, an organization ideally positioned to discuss the wide-spread Nigerian Scam issue with Nigerian officials. It is a beginning. This email was also copied to a number of proactive friends, some of whom may send it on to others.
The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
Office of Grants Management
140 S. Dearborn Street
Chicago, IL 60603-5285
MacArthur Foundation Nigeria
Fourth Floor Amma House
Plot 432 Yakubu Pam Street
(Opposite National Hospital)
Central Business District, Abuja
Phone: (234-9) 234-8053 or (234-9) 234-8054
Fax: (234-9) 234-8046
I deeply respect and appreciate your foundation's work in building bridges internationally where needed. This is good work and very important.
One concern is the lack of Nigerian governmental cooperation with American law enforcement issues, a long-standing complaint which will eventuate in State Department sanctions. This of course regards the on-going and continual victimization of Americans by citizens of Nigeria who are using the Internet and surface postal and telecommunication services in criminal activities including counterfeiting, bank fraud, credit card fraud and theft. Our FBI cannot prosecute these criminals (N-Files) because the Nigerian government refuses to cooperate. This problem has reached such proportions that most Americans can point to people they know who have been victimized.
I am certain that there must be a positive solution for this problem, and perhaps your foundation is properly positioned to be instrumental.
Ted L Glines
1024 N Center
New Boston, Texas 75570
This email was sent in the middle of the night while I was at work. It was daytime in Nigeria. It is unlikely that I will receive any answer from them, but there is a small chance that my communication may grab someone's attention, there at the MacArthur Foundation headquarters in downtown Abuja, Nigeria. And the MacArthur folks might talk about it over coffee in their breakroom. And, maybe, the MacArthur Foundation workers might talk about it to their Nigerian governmental partners. And gossip is an always evolving creature and I can almost hear it: “The American State Department is putting together trade sanctions against Nigeria because of these scammers!” A communication like this, sometimes, can be like poking a hornet's nest with a stick ... or it can be a complete waste of time. Would it not be funny if my email was copied back to our State Department ... and it gave Condi the idea to slam some sanctions against Nigeria? Giggle!
Oh, one of the recipients of this massively copied email went to “George Norbbert,” the Nigerian who used a romance scam to dupe Marian (he made her believe that he loved her and that he was going to come over here and marry her), preying on her lonesome life. I suspect that he may be stupid enough to respond, and I have a surprise waiting for him. Five of the other recipients are activists who will copy the email all over the Internet. Yes!
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is an arm for our Department of State. They got a copy of this at:
Hey, if you are going to poke sticks at hornet's nests, poke the biggest ones you can find! And tell them that you require a response. I have worked with all levels of law enforcement for so many years that I will welcome the FBI at my door (I am more familiar with the U.S. Secret Service). Those "scarey" people are employed by my tax dollars; they work for me.
As a published writer, you have a choice. You can motor-mouth to other authors like me and our friends, or you can do this AND put your truth(s) out there (sticks poked into hornet's nests) where your work(s) can make an essential difference. I have been doing this for 40+ years, and I have seen some changes happen because of proactive poking.
Government agencies normally work in a vacuum. They are sequestered in an ivory tower environment full of security clearances and need-to-know defenses. You can help them by telling them your concerns (Yikes!) and you might be surprised when you find you have taught them something. Been there, done that, it was worth doing.