“Calvary greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. I am former Mrs. Fatima Egunbe Otu, now Mrs. Mary Egunbe Otu, a widow to the late Sheik Egunbe Otu.”

That's how an e-mail I recently received started out.

“I am 72 years old,” the message continued. “I am a new Christian convert, suffering from long time cancer of the breast. From all indications, my condition is really deteriorating and is quite obvious that I may not live more than six months, because the cancer stage has gotten to a very severe stage.

“My late husband was killed during the Gulf War, and during the period of our marriage we had a son who was also killed in cold blood during the Gulf War. My late husband was very wealthy and, after his death, I inherited all his business and wealth. My personal physician told me that I may not live for more than six months and I am so scared about this. So, I now decided to divide part of this wealth by contributing to the development of evangelism in Africa, America, Europe and Asian countries. This mission, which will no doubt be tasking, has made me recently relocate to Nigeria, Africa, where I live presently. I selected your church after visiting the Web site for this purpose and prayed over it. I am willing to donate the sum of $10 million to your Church/Ministry for the development of evangelism and also as aids for the less privileged around you.

“Please note that this fund is lying in a Security Company in Switzerland and the company has branches. Therefore my lawyer will file an immediate application for the transfer of the money in the name of your ministry. Please, do not reply to me if you have the intention of using this fund for personal use other than the enhancement of evangelism.

“Lastly, I want you/your ministry to be praying for me as regards my entire life and my health because I have come to find out since my spiritual birth lately that wealth acquisition without Jesus Christ in one's life is vanity upon vanity.

“May the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the sweet fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you. I await your urgent reply.”

The e-mail was signed “Yours in Christ” from a Mrs. Mary Egunbe Out of Bodija, Ibadan, Nigeria.

We responded to Mrs. Otu, writing that we would use the money as intended and that we would keep her in our prayers. She responded to our reply by giving us the e-mail address of her lawyer, whom she said would give us further instructions on what to do to receive the donation.

At this point, I decided to do some checking. The lawyer's e-mail ends with lawyer.com. I looked for that Web site, but came up with nothing. Next, I used network solutions “whois” directory to see who owned that domain name. Easylink Services Corporation in New Jersey owned it. Their Web site told me they were involved in the transaction-delivery segment of the electronic commerce industry, providing solutions to more than 20,000 companies worldwide. I figured the lawyer, one Barrister Ade Omolomo, must work for them.

So I called them up. It turns out that they supply free e-mail addresses—so the lawyer.com ending doesn't necessarily mean he is a lawyer. Next, I decided to look up his company in Nigeria on nigeria.com. I couldn't find the company listing. Then I saw a link called NigerianFraudWatch.org under their business links. That site is dedicated to the tracking of advance-fee fraud perpetrated by Nigerian organized-crime syndicates. There I found a U.S. group called The 419 Coalition dedicated to fighting Nigerian scams; their Web site is at http://home.rica.net/alphae/419coal.

The 419 Coalition had examples of scams, one being a will scam. I looked at it and—lo and behold—the name “Ade Chambers” appeared. Now where did I see that name before? Oh, yes. Supposed lawyer Barrister Ade Omolomo, who was going to send us $10 million, works for them. I was being targeted for scamming.

Sure enough, Barrister Ade Omolomo's next e-mail to me asked for an upfront fee of $850 “for the processing of your documents and file.”

“As soon as your payment is received,” the message concluded, “the processing of your donation will commence. Best regard, Barrister Ade Omolomo.”

Last year, according to Gavin McCormick from the Associated Press, at least 16 people fell victim to this elaborate plot, which pinged millions of e-mail inboxes. Those 16 people reported losses of $345,000, including two unidentified people who lost $78,000 and $74,000. Of 17,000 fraud complaints to the Internet Fraud Complaint Center, on the Internet at www1.ifccfbi.gov/index.asp, 2,600 concerned solicitations from Nigeria. That put the country at the top of those outside the United States generating complaints.

The moral of this story is a quote from Brother Frederick here at the monastery: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn't .”

By the way, if you have a spare $10 million, we could use it. Then again, perhaps I should stick to buying lottery tickets.

Brother John Raymond, co-founder

of the Monks of Adoration, writes

from Venice, Florida.