Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Nigeria will pay your contingency fee, counsel, just give us your bank account number…

It seems like anyone with an e-mail account could’ve seen this one coming.

Last month, a Silver Spring attorney filed suit against the Federal Republic of Nigeria and its National Universities Commission, alleging he had been hired, but not paid, by the NUC to collect nearly $1.9 million of the government agency’s money that had somehow been misplaced when the scandalized Riggs National Bank was taken over by PNC.

Sound familiar? The old “Help me access millions of dollars in some foreign bank account and we’ll share the proceeds. It won’t hurt a bit …” solicitation?

Well, maybe the authors of those predatory emails came by it honestly. After all, their scams are apparently just a tricky twist on their national government’s modus operandi.

According to Michael Zebendilos Okpala’s July 19 complaint, the NUC agreed to pay him 10 percent of whatever he was able to recover. But after he traced the four old accounts, found the money in an HSBC Bank account in London, and traveled to the Nigeria capital of Abuja to tell the NUC executive secretary to send the account’s original signatories to London, Okpala only got $12,596.67, which is $177,000 less than what he claims he’s owed.

Another trip to Abuja to collect the balance only resulted in an invitation to file suit, Okpala alleges.

Among the lessons from this misadventure: Receiving your contingency fee can sometimes be contingent upon factors besides recovering money for the client. Pause before accepting a legal engagement that sounds like a common e-mail scam. Because if it sounds too good to be true …