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Shock as Kenyan woman, Anne Kihagi-Swain, is fined $2.4M by US court

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A Kenyan landlady who has been described as notorious by the media , Anne Kihagi, who was sued by the SF city attorney two years ago after numerous reports about her shady eviction tactics and unfair treatment of tenants, has been ordered to pay $2.4 million and has also been sentenced to five days in jail for violating provisions of the Ellis Act at one of her properties in West Hollywood.

 

The news was received with shock among Kenyans.

“A Kenyan woman has been fined US$2.4 million (Sh247.5 million) by an American court for being an abusive landlord,” reported a Kenya paper.

Ms Anne Kihagi has been accused of harassing 23 tenants and wrongfully evicting 10 others by using unconventional methods to frustrate among them the elderly and a cancer patient.

Ms Kihagi, a landlord with a portfolio of property worth $24 million (Sh2.5 billion) was also sentenced to five days in a San Francisco jail for violating the housing law.

This is after a two-year bruising court battle with her tenants who have christened her the “notorious landlord”.

In fact, Ms Kihagi may end up being fined up to $4 million (Sh412.5 million) since the judge also ruled

Anne Kihagi

that she must foot the costs incurred during the case.

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Ms Kihagi’s run-ins with her tenants began two years ago when they complained of harassment and uncouth tactics that their landlord used to evict them so she could renovate the building and rent it out at a higher price.

VERBAL AB– USE

According to a report by San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera, the tactics used by Ms Kihagi included: “Fraud, harassment, threats, intimidation, verbal abuse, interrupting gas, electric, water and cable service, failing to cash rent cheques, only to late claim them as untimely rent payment and violating tenants’ privacy by entering their apartments without required notice”.

The tenants also accused Ms Kihagi of installing video surveillance cameras aimed at their front doors.

Ms Kihagi has since garnered a reputation for being a horrible landlord, with Mr Herrera saying, “I’ve gone after a lot of lawless landlords in my time, but Anne Kihagi has a special place reserved for her in San Francisco’s abusive landlord ‘hall of fame’. Her cruelty is stunning.”

In her ruling, Judge Angela Bradstreet noted that Ms Kihagi’s behaviour had serious effects on the lives of several citizens of San Francisco, to the point that one former tenant had to quit her job and move out of the state. In another case, Ms Kihagi forced a tenant suffering from cancer out of his home.

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The court case was under investigation for two years and the ruling attracted a lot of media coverage from San Francisco press.

The US based media have reported that Ms Kihagi irked her tenants so much that some housing rights activists took to the streets to protest against her.

BUSINESS MODEL

US newspapers have reported that Ms Kihagi began buying property in June 2013 in Noe Valley, the Mission and North Beach and the Castro, making her the owner of over 50 units in San Francisco.

It is also reported that Ms Kihagi is working closely with two business associates, Julia Mwangi and Christine Mwangi, known as “The Mwangi sisters” who were jointly sued by the tenants. She also has property in Los Angeles and West Hollywood.

Her business model involves buying buildings with long-term, “rent-controlled tenants paying below-market rents and then using a wide range of methods, both legal and illegal, to get rid of the tenants,” a San Francisco newspaper reported.

Once she pushes out the tenants, Ms Kihagi allegedly makes unpermitted improvements in the buildings after which she rents them at a higher price.

Ms Kihagi, who is being represented by her lawyer Karen Uchiyama, blames the case on a tenant activists group that wanted to “make a scapegoat of Anne Kihagi”.

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The lawyer further accused the court of scaring landlords from evicting tenants. The lawyer maintained that Ms Kihagi acted within the law even in evicting the tenants. Meanwhile, Ms Kihagi is appealing the ruling.

-Nairobi news

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Diaspora

Kenyans among 300 people arrested over international online scams

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A global operation targeting online scams has led to nearly 300 arrests in 12 countries including Kenya.

According to Voice of America, the suspects include 167 from Nigeria, 74 in the United States, 18 in Turkey and 15 in Ghana.

Other arrests were in Turkey, Ghana, France, Italy, Japan, Malaysia and Britain.

A statement from the U.S Justice Department (DOJ) said: “Foreign citizens perpetrate many BEC scams.  Those individuals are often members of transnational criminal organizations, which originated in Nigeria but have spread throughout the world,” the statement reads.

The four month operation was led by the DOJ and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

During the operation, $3.7 million (Ksh.384million) was recovered, the U.S Justice Department (DOJ) said.

Christopher Wray, the FBI director warned: ”We’re sending a clear message to the criminals who orchestrate these BEC schemes.”

The DOJ listed some of the scams that the fraudsters used to con their victims:

  • Romance scams
  • Employment opportunities scams,
  • Fraudulent online vehicle sales scams
  • Rental scams
  • Lottery scams

Among those arrested in Nigeria were 77 Nigerian suspects recently indicted in the United States on conspiracy charges of swindling businesses and individuals through a variety of internet scams, Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission said.

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The Nigerians allegedly used so-called Business Email Compromise schemes, “romance fraud” and schemes targeting the elderly to steal millions of dollars from their victims in the United States and elsewhere before transferring the funds to Nigeria through an extensive money laundering network, according to a 252-count federal grand jury indictment unsealed last month.

Others arrested during the recent operation face similar charges.

In the southern U.S. state of Georgia, two Nigerian nationals were arrested in connection with fraudulently directing a transfer of $3.5 million from a health care provider to accounts across the United States. In Miami, two others were charged with laundering more than $950,000 of proceeds of BEC scams and recruiting about 18 others to serve as “money mules.”

Widely used by Nigerian fraudsters, Business Email Compromise schemes involve targeting employees with access to company finances and tricking them into making unauthorized wire transfers into accounts controlled by swindlers.

$26 billion online scam

According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, Business Email Compromise is a $26 billion online scam. Last year, BEC and its variant, Email Account Compromise, resulted in losses of nearly $1.3 billion, nearly twice as much as 2017.

Operation reWired was part of the Justice Department’s intensified efforts in recent years to crack down on internet financial fraud. Among other measures, the department has set up an internal BEC Counteraction Group to coordinate cases.

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Through the arrests, “we’re sending a clear message to the criminals who orchestrate these BEC schemes: We’ll keep coming after you, no matter where you are,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said. “And to the public, we’ll keep doing whatever we can to protect you.”

U.S. and Nigerian officials credited the mass arrests to close cooperation and coordination between their law enforcement agencies.

“Our efforts in coordinating the EFCC/FBI joint operations in Nigeria recorded tremendous successes” against “the infamous yahoo-yahoo boys,” said the EFCC’s director of information, Mohammed Abba, according to AFP.

U.S. Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen said the Justice Department has “increased efforts” to combat cyber-enabled financial crimes.

“The coordinated efforts with our domestic and international law enforcement partners around the world has made these most recent actions more successful,” Rosen said.

U.S. officials didn’t say whether they have asked Nigerian authorities to extradite the suspects wanted in multiple U.S. jurisdictions from California to Florida.

Hassan Mohammed Hassan, Nigeria’s deputy ambassador to the U.S., told VOA last month that Nigeria will consider any extradition request based on a “verifiable” case.

Last year, a law enforcement operation aimed at BEC scams resulted in the arrest of 74 people and the seizure of $2.4 million, according to the Justice Department.

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USCIS Announces Citizenship and Assimilation Grant Opportunities

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U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently announced that it is accepting applications for two funding opportunities under the Citizenship and Assimilation Grant Program that will provide up to $10 million in grants for citizenship preparation programs in communities across the country.

These competitive grant opportunities are open to organizations that prepare lawful permanent residents for naturalization and promote civic assimilation through increased knowledge of English, U.S. history, and civics.

USCIS seeks to expand availability of high-quality citizenship and assimilation services throughout the country with these two grant opportunities:

  • Citizenship Instruction and Naturalization Application Services. (PDF) This grant opportunity will fund up to 36 organizations that offer both citizenship instruction and naturalization application services to lawful permanent residents. Applications are due by Aug. 13, 2019.
  • The Refugee and Asylee Assimilation Program. (PDF) This grant opportunity will fund up to four organizations to provide individualized services to lawful permanent residents who entered the United States under the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program or were granted asylum. These services will help them to obtain the skills and knowledge required for successful citizenship and to foster a sense of belonging and attachment to the United States. This grant strives to promote long-term civic assimilation of those lawful permanent residents who have identified naturalization as a goal, yet may need additional information, instruction and services to attain it. Applications are due by Aug. 13, 2019.
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USCIS will take into account various program and organizational factors, including past grantee performance, when making final award decisions. In addition, all funded grant recipients must enroll in E-Verify as a regular employer within 30 days of receiving the award and remain as a participant in good standing with E-Verify throughout the entire period of grant performance. Funded grant recipients will be required to verify all new hires at hiring locations performing work on a program or activity that is funded in whole or in part under the grant.

USCIS expects to announce award recipients in September.

Since it began in 2009, the USCIS Citizenship and Assimilation Grant Program has awarded approximately $82 million through 393 grants to immigrant-serving organizations in 38 states and the District of Columbia.

To apply for one of these funding opportunities, visit grants.gov. For additional information on the Citizenship and Assimilation Grant Program for fiscal year 2019, visit uscis.gov/grants or email the USCIS Office of Citizenship at citizenshipgrantprogram@uscis.dhs.gov.

For more information on USCIS and our programs, please visit uscis.gov or follow us on Twitter (@uscis), Instagram (/uscis), YouTube (/uscis), and Facebook (/uscis).

 

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US welcomed 756,000 new Citizens last year, set to welcome 34,000 this month

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WASHINGTON—Did you know that more than 756,000 people became new U.S. citizens in 2018? That’s one new citizen every 42 seconds! Share in the celebration during Constitution Week.

USCIS announced Friday that it will celebrate Constitution Day and Citizenship Day by welcoming nearly 34,300 new U.S. citizens during 316 naturalization ceremonies across the nation between Sept. 13 and 23.

The USCIS Constitution Week activities will feature a naturalization ceremony at the DAR Constitution Hall on Sept. 17, where USCIS Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli will administer the Oath of Allegiance and provide congratulatory remarks to 1,000 new U.S. citizens. View a list of other notable 2019 Constitution Week-themed naturalization ceremonies.

“Two hundred and thirty-two years ago, our great country adopted the United States Constitution, and as we celebrate Constitution Week, it is important to underscore the significance of citizens’ responsibilities for protecting and defending the Constitution,” said Acting Director Cuccinelli. “These nearly 34,300 new U.S. citizens followed the law on their path to naturalization and now call the U.S. home. I can think of no better way to celebrate Constitution Week than to welcome thousands of new U.S. citizens who have assimilated, made a commitment to our great country, and have vowed to support the Constitution.”

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On Sept. 17, the nation observes Constitution Day and Citizenship Day, as part of Constitution Week (Sept. 17 to 23 this year). The commemoration honors both the signing of the Constitution on Sept. 17, 1787, and an observance that began in 1940 as “I Am an American Day.” Citizenship Day began in 1952, based on a law signed by President Harry Truman, and in 1955, President Dwight Eisenhower proclaimed the first Constitution Week.

This time of year serves as an opportunity to celebrate the connection between the Constitution and citizenship and reflect on the meaning of becoming a citizen of the United States. USCIS welcomes approximately 650,000 to 750,000 citizens each year during naturalization ceremonies across the United States and around the world. In fiscal year 2018, USCIS naturalized more than 756,000 people, a five-year high in new oaths of citizenship.

To help applicants prepare to become U.S. citizens, USCIS provides study materials and resources available through the Citizenship Resource Center. In addition, the only official USCIS Civics Test application, USCIS: Civics Test Study Tools, is a mobile app that challenges users’ civic knowledge and is currently available for download in the Google Play and iTunes stores.

Following each naturalization ceremony, USCIS encourages new U.S. citizens and their families and friends to share their naturalization photos on social media using the hashtags #newUScitizen, #ConstitutionWeek, and #WethePeople.

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For more information on USCIS and its programs, please visit uscis.gov or follow them on Twitter (@uscis), Instagram (/uscis), YouTube (/uscis), Facebook (/uscis), and LinkedIn (/uscis).

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