When attorneys file class actions, the law requires them to designate "named" plaintiffs, or representatives who stand in for the class as a whole, and have claims substantially similar to those of everyone else in the class. It is an unwritten rule that in addition to having claims typical for the class, the named plaintiffs should be as sympathetic as possible, because their individual claims may determine the course of the entire case.
That last detail must have escaped the attention of the American Civil Liberties Union when it filed Alli v. Decker, on behalf of a number of immigrants the government has locked up while it seeks to deport them for criminal activity.
It turned out that Mr. Alli, a native of Ghana whose wife and three children, all United States citizens, live in the Bronx, had taken part in one of the biggest cases of identity theft in this country.
At least 30,000 people nationwide had been victimized in an intricate scheme by a loosely knit ring of 30 people, mostly Nigerian immigrants, according to law enforcement authorities and court documents. More than $50 million had been drained from credit cards and bank accounts.
Oops indeed. While the ACLU is going forward with its suit, having the mastermind of a Nigerian email fraud ring testify as the lead plaintiff presents interesting cross-examination opportunities.
Somewhere, some Assistant United States Attorney is probably brushing up on the activities of Alexander Alli's criminal gang, his victims, and the history of coups and countercoups in Nigeria. And laughing.