(CN) - An Iowa lawyer whose clients lost money in a Nigerian inheritance scam has been suspended for a year by the state's highest court.
Robert Allan Wright Jr. had been practicing law for 30 years when a client named Floyd Lee Madison asked Wright for help in securing an inheritance from his long-lost cousin in Nigeria.
Madison told Wright that a payment of $177,600 in taxes would secure an $18.8 million payment. Wright agreed to help Madison in exchange for 10 percent of the inheritance.
Wright persuaded two other clients to loan Wright $12,000 each in return for $50,000 payments from the inheritance.
The Iowa Supreme Court Attorney Disciplinary Board filed a complaint against Wright for his dealings with the two clients. Wright then disclosed that he had convinced three other clients to loan Madison a total of $187,000.
The Nigerian inheritance never panned out, as Madison followed instructions to pick up the money in Madrid, but he was unable to take possession of the funds. Madison, Wright and the five clients received no money.
The board withdrew part of its complaint against Wright dealing with fraud, finding 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 on upon his office doorstep."
However, the Iowa Supreme Court board complained that Wright did not competently represent his clients by relying on documents that were "facially of doubtful validity."
"Without confirmation of the authenticity of the documents, the authority of the persons he was dealing with, or the existence of the allegedly inherited funds, Wright apparently disbursed more than $200,000 in pursuit of the scam," Justice Daryl Hecht wrote on the court's behalf.
Hecht also found that Wright should have disclosed his financial interest in the inheritance to the first two clients and should have advised them to seek independent counsel.
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