Psychiatrist 'gave millions to email scammers'

Louis Gottschalk, a noted US psychiatrist, has allegedly lost up to $3m through a 419 scam
Written by Tom Espiner, Contributor

An eminent US psychiatrist has fallen victim to Internet scammers who have defrauded him of millions of dollars, according to reports on Friday.

Guy Gottschalk, the son of 89-year-old psychiatrist Dr Louis Gottschalk, has reportedly filed papers in a California court in which he states that his father was tricked into sending up to $3m (£2m) to the fraudsters, in the hope of receiving a substantial sum back.

Guy Gottschalk is seeking to remove his father as administrator of the family's $8m estate.

Dr Louis Gottschalk, who still works at the University of California, Irvine, famously claimed in 1987 that President Ronald Reagan's mental abilities may have started to become impaired as early as 1980, at the start of his presidency.

"While it seems unlikely, even ludicrous, that a highly educated doctor like [Gottschalk] would fall prey to such an obvious con, that is exactly what happened," Guy Gottschalk's attorney wrote in court papers, according to the LA Times.

Louis Gottschalk is said to dispute this claim, and in his own court papers says his son was carrying out a "vendetta" against him. He said that he had instead lost $900,000 in "some bad investments".

The case has been set to be heard on 14 March in the Superior Court of California, County of Orange.

'Nigerian' email scams — also known as 419 scams after the section of Nigerian legal code that deals with fraud — begin with a message offering the recipient a very large sum of money in return for helping to move an even larger amount of cash out of a foreign bank account.

Anyone who expresses an interest is then told that they must first hand over a substantial amount of money to cover expenses such as banking fees and administrative costs. These fees often run to thousands of pounds.

Now prevalent online, the 419 scam was originally conducted by letter. It has become an issue of some embarrassment to the Nigerian government, even though, despite the nomenclature, many of those responsible are not thought to be based in the country at all.

Editorial standards