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6/2/2020 2:34:59 PM
Posted: 1/8/2005 9:45:50 AM EDT
www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/10576205.htm?1c

Legal scholar in midst of check probe

BY JAY WEAVER

jweaver@herald.com

When the Nigerian government e-mailed University of Miami law professor Enrique Fernandez-Barros for help, he said he felt flattered.

''They wanted me to review some infrastructure contracts based on my international reputation,'' said Fernandez-Barros, an expert on foreign law.

He said a purported Nigerian official promised in late 2003 to pay him for legal services if he would help the government and a well-connected Nigerian businessman recoup $1.68 million from a U.S. truck-leasing company. His incentive: $200,000 in fees for this and other work.

Fernandez-Barros, who holds three doctoral degrees, said he received the whopping check from Penske Truck Leasing, deposited it in his credit-union account and later had the money wired to Nigeria -- a sequence of extraordinary events that landed him in the middle of a U.S. Secret Service investigation and a federal lawsuit over the vanished funds.

In the civil suit filed a week ago in Miami, Penske claims that Fernandez-Barros helped rip off the company -- although the 73-year-old legal scholar says he believed that the Nigerian transactions were legitimate and he never received a penny.

''I'm 100 percent innocent; I've been used,'' said Fernandez-Barros, an adjunct professor who is scheduled to teach two classes in the upcoming spring semester.

He initially agreed to show The Herald some documents, such as the Nigerian e-mails, that he has shared with federal investigators, but his attorney, Mayra Trinchet, would not let him do so on Wednesday.

A MYSTERY

According to the suit, the Pennsylvania-based leasing company mailed a $1.68 million check to truck manufacturer Freightliner's Atlanta bank in December 2003 to pay for a new fleet of tractor-trailers. The check, however, never made it into Freightliner's account. How that happened is still a mystery.

Penske alleges that Fernandez-Barros somehow obtained the ''stolen'' and ''altered'' check. The suit, assigned to Senior U.S. District Judge James Lawrence King, does not say who sent Fernandez-Barros the check, which included the same check number, date and signature as the original one, but also several noticeable differences.

BANK AND CREDIT UNION

But the truck-leasing company, headed by auto-racing team owner Roger Penske, is not suing the professor. To recover its lost money, Penske is going after its own bank, Fleet National, which approved the professor's transaction, and the University Credit Union, an independent provider of banking services for UM employees and students.

According to the suit, Fleet refused to restore the funds to Penske's bank account or to go after the credit union to recover the lost money.

Fernandez-Barros, a native of Cuba who has taught foreign law at UM for the past seven years, said in an interview that someone he believed was with the Nigerian government e-mailed him unexpectedly to solicit his legal expertise.

REVIEW OF CONTRACTS

He agreed to do the work, which mostly involved reviewing public-works contracts for road, sewer and water projects. He said the purported Nigerian government official told him that he would be paid after he helped transfer the Penske check funds to that country.

Fernandez-Barros said the connected Nigerian businessman -- whom he never met in person -- arranged for an associate in Atlanta to send the Penske check via FedEx to his West Miami-Dade County home.

Fernandez-Barros said the businessman told him that Penske Corp., the holding company for the truck-leasing division, owed him the money from a stock sale. The law professor said he thought the check was authentic.

''I never altered the check, I never knew I was cashing an altered check, and I never took the money,'' Fernandez-Barros said Wednesday.

Fernandez-Barros said he followed through on the instructions: He wire-transferred all of the proceeds -- totaling $1,681,582.50 -- to the Nigerian government, the Nigerian businessman and two of the businessman's associates in Maryland. He said he was told that most of the money was supposed to reimburse the Nigerian government for a community public-works project.

Calls to the Nigerian embassy in Washington and the Atlanta consulate were not returned Wednesday.

U.S. authorities have long been investigating ubiquitous Internet scams allegedly tied to Nigeria. Most of those scams involve unsolicited e-mails that invite recipients to act as go-betweens in complex international financial transactions. In exchange for their help, the recipients are promised significant rewards -- but instead, their bank accounts are drained.

Officials of Penske, Fleet -- now part of Bank of America -- and the UM School of Law declined to comment about the lawsuit.

A Miami lawyer representing University Credit Union, which is not part of UM, defended its reputation.

`HARD TO BELIEVE'

''I would find it hard to believe that UCU ever used anything less than the most appropriate procedures in the handling and processing of checks and deposits,'' the lawyer, Michael Lozoff, said.

According to the suit, the credit union ''suspected that there might have been a problem with the authenticity and/or validity of the altered check'' and held it for seven days while the credit union contacted Penske's bank to verify its legitimacy. Fleet told the credit union that the ''altered check was legitimate,'' the suit says.

The credit union held the check for four more days to reconfirm its authenticity with Fleet. The bank gave its assurances a second time, according to the suit.

CHECK IS CLEARED

The credit union then cleared the $1.68 million check when Penske's Fleet bank account provided the funds to cover the check.

''At no point did anyone at Fleet or at UCU contact anyone at Penske to inquire if the check was legitimate or if Fernandez was the correct named payee [on the altered check],'' the suit alleges.

Now Fernandez-Barros, a former professor of Spanish at the University of Iowa who lives with his two dogs in a rental home, said he feels that he is the victim of an international scam. He blames the Nigerian government.

''They put me in the middle of this whole mess,'' he said. ``They used me like a chess piece to steal the Penske money.''
Link Posted: 1/8/2005 9:47:24 AM EDT
Idiot
Link Posted: 1/8/2005 9:47:27 AM EDT
DOH!
Link Posted: 1/8/2005 9:47:52 AM EDT
There is a difference between a degree and an education.  This man has degrees.
Link Posted: 1/8/2005 9:48:04 AM EDT
Link Posted: 1/8/2005 9:53:03 AM EDT


A fool and his money are soon parted


Link Posted: 1/8/2005 9:53:17 AM EDT
That man is a fucking moron. My 8 year old niece knows about the Nigerian scam.

Stay in school kids!!!
Link Posted: 1/8/2005 9:53:35 AM EDT
He's not too well associated with common sense, is he?  But then again, he's probably a liberal so that goes hand in hand.  
Link Posted: 1/8/2005 9:55:07 AM EDT
Link Posted: 1/8/2005 9:56:50 AM EDT

Never EVER mistake "intelligence" for wisdom.

Link Posted: 1/8/2005 9:58:42 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 1/8/2005 9:59:39 AM EDT by NeedMoreAmmo]
It's Bush's fault  
Link Posted: 1/8/2005 9:58:47 AM EDT
Link Posted: 1/8/2005 10:00:18 AM EDT

Originally Posted By j-fonz:
There is a difference between a degree and an education.  This man has degrees.



Fu'kn A!

I worked with students, faculty and staff at UCSD for a number of years as a Travel Agent.  Some of the "best and brightest" people on the planet.  They may have mutiple degrees and 4.0 GPA's but in terms of plain old common sense (not to mention functional literacy) ... I've seen houseplants with more.

DAMN!  Some Many of them were so narrowly focused that you wondered how they were able to function with things like wiping their asses and eating and breathing.  
Link Posted: 1/8/2005 10:03:19 AM EDT
this is not the typical "nigerian scam".  this is far more involved and may be using the nigerian scam as a cover for a us based/run crime.
Link Posted: 1/8/2005 10:03:41 AM EDT
Link Posted: 1/8/2005 10:04:28 AM EDT
Some accountant for a fish packing company in Homer claimed she lost $400,000 of company money to Nigerian scammers.  No one believed she could be that stupid. She was charged with embezzling the money herself.
Link Posted: 1/8/2005 10:27:44 AM EDT

Originally Posted By thebeekeeper1:

Originally Posted By The_Macallan:
Never EVER mistake "intelligence" for wisdom.




Yup--my father would refer to him as an "educated idiot."  



Some people are educated beyond their intelligence. It seems to have caught up with this guy. But then he is 73, people of this age tend to be targets for fraud because they often are more trusting of others than younger adults.
Link Posted: 1/8/2005 10:31:24 AM EDT
I don't usually do this, but...



Oh what the hell...

Link Posted: 1/8/2005 10:31:53 AM EDT
some on the professors i had were dumb dealing with real world stuff but knew books.
Link Posted: 1/8/2005 10:38:03 AM EDT
Goes to show that education and street smarts are two different critters. As far as academia is concerned, these people are narrowly focused on their area of expertise.  Take them to another arena and some barely function.
Link Posted: 1/8/2005 10:41:25 AM EDT
Scope out this site.......

http://www.419eater.com/
Link Posted: 1/8/2005 10:45:59 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 1/8/2005 10:48:09 AM EDT by APBullet]

We got the money....yeaaaaaaaaaaaa

No doubt the professor and the Nigerian were working together.
Link Posted: 1/8/2005 10:46:06 AM EDT
I can't believe that people will still talk with ANYONE claiming to be a NIGERIAN OFFICIAL OF ANY SORT.  What a dumbass.
Link Posted: 1/8/2005 10:48:02 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 1/8/2005 10:48:43 AM EDT by lippo]


Sad, just sad.

The guys an idiot, but I hope he gets some justice. Stealing from stupid people is even worse than the government stealing from us.

Fiction:
''They put me in the middle of this whole mess,'' he said. ``They used me like a chess piece to steal the Penske money.''

Truth:
"I allowed myself to get put in the middle of this whole mess," he said. "I allowed them to stick me like a new prisoner who drops the soap on the first day."

When will people take responsibility for their own actions?


Link Posted: 1/8/2005 10:52:08 AM EDT
WTF, how could someone fall for it. It's like the most widely known scam on the internet now
Link Posted: 1/8/2005 11:21:37 AM EDT

The credit union then cleared the $1.68 million check when Penske's Fleet bank

In the guy's defense, the check looked good enough to fool Bank of America.  Would you be able to spot a fake check if it fools even the bank.  I still think the guy did something dumb, but he was approached as being hired for a job not as part of a scam like the other idiots that lose money to these scams.z
Link Posted: 1/8/2005 11:25:38 AM EDT
First tip off should have been $200K for some work that a paralegal could have done.  Pure greed.  You cannot cheat an honest man.
Link Posted: 1/8/2005 11:28:40 AM EDT

Originally Posted By Airwolf:

Originally Posted By j-fonz:
There is a difference between a degree and an education.  This man has degrees.



Fu'kn A!

I worked with students, faculty and staff at UCSD for a number of years as a Travel Agent.  Some of the "best and brightest" people on the planet.  They may have mutiple degrees and 4.0 GPA's but in terms of plain old common sense (not to mention functional literacy) ... I've seen houseplants with more.

DAMN!  Some Many of them were so narrowly focused that you wondered how they were able to function with things like wiping their asses and eating and breathing.  


I went to high school with a girl that made perfect ACT/SAT scores, 4.0, and went to MIT.  Her senior year her car quit running.  You know why?  43,000 miles without an oil change.  She said that she thought they did that when they put gas in it.
Link Posted: 1/8/2005 11:41:03 AM EDT
Link Posted: 1/8/2005 1:43:53 PM EDT
Originally Posted By Airwolf:
www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/10576205.htm?1c

Legal scholar in midst of check probe

BY JAY WEAVER

jweaver@herald.com

When the Nigerian government e-mailed University of Miami law professor Enrique Fernandez-Barros for help, he said he felt flattered.

''They wanted me to review some infrastructure contracts based on my international reputation,'' said Fernandez-Barros, an expert on foreign law.

He said a purported Nigerian official promised in late 2003 to pay him for legal services if he would help the government and a well-connected Nigerian businessman recoup $1.68 million from a U.S. truck-leasing company. His incentive: $200,000 in fees for this and other work.

Fernandez-Barros, who holds three doctoral degrees, said he received the whopping check from Penske Truck Leasing, deposited it in his credit-union account and later had the money wired to Nigeria -- a sequence of extraordinary events that landed him in the middle of a U.S. Secret Service investigation and a federal lawsuit over the vanished funds.

In the civil suit filed a week ago in Miami, Penske claims that Fernandez-Barros helped rip off the company -- although the 73-year-old legal scholar says he believed that the Nigerian transactions were legitimate and he never received a penny.

''I'm 100 percent innocentstupid; I've been used,ass fucked'' said Fernandez-Barros, an adjunct professor who is scheduled to teach two classes in the upcoming spring semester.


fixed it for him.
Link Posted: 1/8/2005 6:07:28 PM EDT
There is a difference between "education" and "intelligence".

SRM
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