A US scientist who collected $600,000 for SARS research in China from students, colleagues and friends, actually handed the money over to Nigerian 419ers, the Boston Herald reports.
Former Dana-Farber Cancer Institute researcher and Harvard University professor Weldong Xu, 38, was contacted by the lads from Lagos and promised $50m in quick profit.
We assume that the usual "unforseen expenses" scenario soon kicked in, since Xu began to solicit funds for his philanthropic far-eastern venture.
Among the 35 individuals who fell for the scam was a friend who remortgaged his house to support Xu's initiative. Boston police detective Steve Blair noted: "These are co-workers who trusted him and believed in him and took him for his word."
Xu was uncovered after employers Dana-Farber fingered him to police over the affair. Unhappily for the criminal mastermind, he was spotted arguing with one scammee in the Dana-Farber canteen by another victim who was at the time being interviewed by police.
The cuffs slapped on, Xu 'fessed up and handed police a book containing details of his shameful fleecings.
Xu would not, however, admit that he had himself been played like a cheap violin by the Nigerians. "The scammer's been scammed," said detective Blair. "He wouldn't acknowledge he'd been scammed. I tried to tell him he'd been scammed, but he never caught on."
While the future for Xu appears to involve breaking rocks, and plenty of 'em, one fundamental question remains: what is currently the minimum IQ required for a Harvard professorship? We suspect that the answer is double figures - or less. ®