Fraud case opens lid into the sophisticated art of con game
When seven suspects took to the dock to plead to fraud charges, they looked ordinary. Like any Tom, Dick and Harry – plain. But underneath the veneer of simplicity lay a suave and sophisticated lot that has opened the door to the world of conmanship.
The seven, who had purported to be officials from the Office of the Deputy President, were yesterday charged a fresh over a Sh180 million fake tender scam.
Allan Kiprotich Chesang, Teddy Awiti, Kevin Mutundura Nyongesa, Augustine Wambua Matata, Joy Wangari Kamau, James William Makokha alias Mr Wanyonyi and Johan Ochieng Osore appeared before Chief Magistrate Martha Mutuku and denied the charges.
They were charged afresh after the prosecution consolidated their files.
They appeared before Chief Magistrate Martha Mutuku after the prosecution consolidated their files.
The suspects, who duped the victim into supplying 2,800 pieces of laptops in August 2018, had forged a Local Purchase Order (LPO) purported to have been issued by a Mr Mulinge, an assistant procurement officer at the DP’s office.
Their case is a classic example of the tremendous transformation fraud – originally associated with dingy downtown areas, and targeting the naive and less educated people - has undergone in the last few years.
Lately, the majority of the victims – as the recent case of a high-ranking diplomat – are well exposed people.
But what has baffled detectives is the fact that some of the serious fraud cases are executed in high-level government and security offices.
According to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI), the State House, Harambee House, Harambee House Annex, the United Nations, the Department of Defence (DoD), Jogoo House police offices and Afya House, are among places where fraudsters have either pitched tent, or purported to operate from.
The Economic and Commercial Crimes Unit of the DCI is currently investigating a case of fraud involving millions of shillings by suspects posing as UN staff.
The gang, including a man and a woman who the DCI a fortnight ago listed as wanted persons, are also wanted for bank fraud offences.
The DCI, in a notice in the newspapers, indicated that Gerald Gatheru Mwai and Gladys Mwara Kamau, were wanted following a warrant of arrest issued by a Milimani court in Nairobi, on October 16.
Apart from the case before court in which a warrant of arrest was issued against the duo, the two are also said to have been duping unsuspecting businessmen over non-existing tenders at the UN.
The victims are issued with fake Local Purchase Orders (LPOs) after parting with some money, and would be directed to specific companies to purchase tendered goods, especially drugs and rice, but told to pay and wait for the goods to be delivered, because the UN complex is a security zone.
Some of the victims told detectives that since access to the UN compound was restricted, they were convinced to surrender the goods to a team of ‘UN staff’ to deliver. The fraudsters would then disappear with the goods.
The gullibility has been baffling, a clear proof that no one is immune to fraud.
In the latest fraud case involving Sh300 million that was in court on Wednesday last week, the victim, Haile Menkerios, is said to have served in different senior positions within the UN.
The suspect, businessman and former Embakasi East parliamentary aspirant Francis Mureithi, is alleged to have defrauded Menkerios under the pretext that he could help the diplomat secure a food supply tender at the DoD.
Menkerios, 74, has served as the Head of UN office to the African Union (UNOAU) and as a Special Representative to the African Union.
He has also served as the UN Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Sudan and South Sudan.
According to Psychology professor Robert Cialdini, people fall for scams due to a number of reasons, including the principle of reciprocity or enforced indebtedness used to elicit unwise action from the targeted victims.
“Not all fraud victims are risk-taking and greedy individuals seeking to make a quick shilling.
They come from a variety of socio-economic, educational, age and gender backgrounds,” a senior detective at DCI headquarters said.
And the fraudsters are not the ordinary slinky characters who operate covertly. Some of them are ubiquitous characters who use their community and professional credibility and respectability to con.
In most of the cases, fraudsters disguise themselves as employees of certain institutions and forge LPOs and letterheads to send fake tender bids to unsuspecting companies or businessmen with requests to supply goods.
In another case at DoD in August this year, the once high flying former assistant minister Danston Mungatana was arrested by detectives from Kilimani DCI together with Collins Paul Waweru for the offence of obtaining money by pretences, forgery and making of a false document.
The two had obtained Sh1 million by pretending they were in a position to help a business person to secure a non-existent Sh70 million tender, purportedly to supply cereals and building materials to the DOD.
After the complainant parted with Sh1 million, she was called to a Nairobi hotel to meet “a senior officer who would help push the alleged business opportunity”.
In March this year, detectives arrested Mercy Waihiga Wanjiku alias Linda Masake Mugundu for obtaining goods valued at Sh37 million from a businessman in another fake tender at the Ministry of Health (MoH), Afya House.
Wanjiku, together with other suspects, posed as senior MoH Health officials and lured Eastleigh businessman Ibrahim Adan to deliver 20,000 boxes of hand gloves, 1000 pieces of non-contact infrared thermometers and 579 boxes of face masks worth Sh37 million.
The meetings -to award the fake tender MOH/DPPH/DNMP/001/GF-ONT/2019-2020 dated May 4 to Rocketway Construction Ltd -were held at the boardroom used by the Human Resources department.
According to the businessman, every time he visited Afya House, he would find the ‘officials’ waiting for him and they would quickly whisk him past the security officers at the reception.
Three months later, in June, Wanjiku was again arrested for obtaining goods worth Sh1.7 million from a businessman after she posed as a Procurement Officer with the Ministry of Interior.
She lured the victim to Jogoo House where she issued him with fake tender documents.
The victim went and purchased the items which he later delivered to a parastatal vehicle near Agip House as directed.
DEPUTY PRESIDENT’S OFFICE
Other places where tender fraudsters have operated, or purported to operate from is the Harambee House Annex, the office of the Deputy President William Ruto.
Early this year, former Sports CS Rashid Echesa, was arrested after he allegedly used the building to lure victims into a multibillion fake military tender.