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How thugs are milking victims dry through mobile banking

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On May 2, 2017, businessman Joseph Mburu was accosted by two men on his way home along Ndwaru Road in Kawangware, Nairobi, at around 3am.

He was robbed of cash and mobile phone before he was forced to disclose his M-Pesa PIN to the two muggers.

The two, Sammy Anyango and Ibrahim Esengwa, then wrestled Mr Mburu to the ground, pelted him with stones and left him for the dead. He died at the scene moments after they had left.

Esengwa recorded Mr Mburu’s M-Pesa PIN and Anyango remained with the mobile phone, national ID and the wallet as they parted ways briefly to reunite later and withdraw cash after shops opened. None could transact without the presence of the other.

Hours later that morning, Anyango’s wife informed him that an unknown man had been found dead in the area and police had arrived to collect his body.

She had no idea that her husband was behind the death.

With Mr Mburu’s phone, National ID and wallet still in his pockets, Anyango returned to the scene as a witness while officers from Kabete police station were collecting the body.

Inserted Sim

After the police left with Mr Mburu’s body, Anyango inserted his Sim card into the dead businessman’s phone and called his partner in crime Esengwa, with whom they withdrew all the money in Mr Mburu’s M-Pesa account.

They then borrowed Sh3,800 from M-Shwari, which they withdrew using his phone and ID. To cover their tracks, they sold his phone.

The Directorate of Criminal Investigations Cybercrime Unit established that a different Sim card had been inserted into Mr Mburu’s phone shortly after his body was collected. They identified the Sim card as that of Anyango’s.

Inspector Maxwell Otieno of the DCI’s Homicides Division traced him to Shika Village in Butere, Kakamega County, where he had retreated to after selling Mr Mburu’s phone.

He confessed to detectives after his arrest. He was instructed to call Esengwa who was also arrested and they were jointly charged with robbery with violence at Milimani law courts on September 6, 2018, where they denied the charges before Chief Magistrate Francis Andayi.

They were released on a Sh500,000 bond with one surety of like amount or an alternative cash bail of Sh500,000.

Carjacked employee

In a similar case, criminals carjacked a telecommunications firm’s employee in Kayole on October 12 last year and robbed her of Sh6,500 and her mobile phone.

They forced her to disclose M-Pesa and bank security codes, then bundled her into her car’s boot.

They drove to Family Bank’s Utawala branch where they hoodwinked a security guard to withdraw the cash for them. They transferred Sh22,000 to the security guard’s M-Pesa.

Unaware that the woman in the car was a captive in her car, the guard offered to help and transferred the cash to his bank, then withdrew the cash for the suspects at the ATM he was guarding.

The suspects then drove off with the woman still in her car’s boot and proceeded to a bush in Mihang’o area where the last man in the car raped her at gunpoint before she was abandoned at around 1am.

She later drove herself to a city hospital before she reported the matter to police.

Corporal George Wamai of Kayole DCI offices, after investigations, arrested serial robbery suspect Albert Karuri who was captured by the CCTV at the bank’s ATM booth speaking to the guard who withdrew the woman’s money for him.

Similar cases

During investigations, Cpl Wamai established that the suspect had three similar cases pending before the Kibera law courts.

Karuri was charged at Makadara law courts on February 10, where he was denied bail and bond after denying the charges.

The DCI says these are among many similar cases where robbers are not interested in what they find their victims with at the place and time of the robberies.

People who have enrolled in mobile banking are particularly at risk once waylaid by criminals who milk their accounts dry.

The robbers are forcing victims to disclose their M-Pesa and bank account PINs before they withdraw the money and transfer the cash to themselves and their accomplices through M-Pesa.

That is not all. The robbers then download digital lending apps and go on a borrowing spree.

The spike in these robberies is worrying the police and the DCI has tasked the Special Service Unit (SSU) with giving a helping hand in taming the menace.

Nairobi regional SSU commandant Pius Gitari says the cases have been reported in different places in the country and his team has been helping trace the perpetrators and handing them over to DCI offices within the jurisdictions where the crimes were committed.

Family robbed

In one of the cases reported at Samburu police station on August 18 vide (Occurrence Book) OB number 2/18/8/2020 and later referred to SSU, the victim and family members were robbed of mobile phones and laptops.

The robbers transferred their money to themselves through M-Pesa, then obtained Fuliza loans and transferred the cash to the numbers suspected to be theirs or those of their accomplices.

They also forcibly obtained ATM cards and PINs and emptied the victims’ accounts.

SSU has been following the money trail through M-Pesa to get the identity of the owners of the phone numbers that received the cash.

In another similarly chilling robbery incident reported at Mweiga police station in Nyeri County on July 8, vide OB number 9/8/7/2020, the same thing happened to the victims.

Detective Corporal Stephen Ndirangu attached to SSU traced and arrested the perpetrators who had transferred the cash from their victims’ M-Pesa to themselves and withdrew cash from their bank accounts after forcing them to disclose PINs.

They have already been charged with robbery with violence. There are many such cases across the country.

The SSU has been tracing and arresting the suspects involved in such robberies and is currently following criminals who have been involved in five similar robberies countrywide.

A detective at SSU said the five are not the only such robberies that have been reported but stand out because regional DCI offices have had difficulties tracing the perpetrators before escalating them to the elite unit.

“There are many such cases across the country where criminals have robbed people through the transfer of cash from their banks and our colleagues in the region have succeeded in arresting suspects. We (SSU) are following only a few cases where they have sought our help to trace the suspects,” a detective at SSU said.

“We are following specific cases that are purely robbery and firearms have been used. Each case is unique but there is a common modus operandi in all of them — where victims are forced to withdraw the cash or share the PINs after being robbed of ATM cards before their money is withdrawn at ATMs or transferred through mobile money.”

Loved ones

A detective said the criminals have devised ways of maximising what they rob their victims either by forcing them to call their loved ones, colleagues and friends to send more cash disguising it for emergencies without disclosing that they have been abducted.

The crafty criminals are also holding their victims until the next day after withdrawing the maximum amount withdrawable at the ATM in a day, to allow them to withdraw more.

Digital lenders association of Kenya CEO Kevin Mutiso said it is tricky for them to help their customers because the incidents are robbery in nature and the lenders can do little to help.

Mr Mutiso said the incidents are similar to muggings where one is accosted and robbed after withdrawing money from banks and banks cannot help because they can’t stop clients from withdrawing money.

“We will form a committee to figure out how we can help find a solution,” Mr Mutiso said.

by nation.co.ke


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Courts

Mombasa lawyer loses Sh20 million to ‘mganga hatari’

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A Mombasa lawyer charged with stealing Sh20 million from his client told a court the money was swindled by a mganga from Tanzania. Witchdoctor

Musa Ngare Aziz told Senior Principal Magistrate Francis Kyambia that he contracted a Mr Mohammed, a witch doctor, to help him sell red mercury reportedly valued at over Sh100 million. The mercury was purportedly in the possession of a woman identified as Sarah from Samburu.

Mohammed took Aziz through ritual including meeting with ‘invisible sheikhs’ in dark caves in Mombasa, besides other rituals in Tanzania to help in selling the mercury to increase his fortunes.

But it was the beginning of his financial drain, physical torture and death threats, said Aziz, who confessed to his parents after recovering from a road accident that, “I had been conned a lot of money mainly belonging to my clients.”

Aziz said a friend introduced him to Sarah as a client in need of legal services to sell mercury. Sarah in turn, introduced him to the mganga ostensibly after failing to find a buyer. Since the deal was purportedly worth Sh105 million, a lawyer was needed. Aziz was taken to a house in Kisauni belonging to a woman identified as Mama Agnes.

“I went to verify the mercury, Agnes poured it on a razor blade and it turned black and while my friend’s blue pen turned red,” Aziz told the court.

“However, Sarah claimed to have seen a snake in the mercury and was told by elders that only Mohamed could help because there was something bad halting the transaction, which needed cleansing,” Aziz narrated.

He added that he used his own and client’s money for Mohammed’s costly rituals for which he was brought before the court charged with stealing Sh20 million belonging to his client, Majid Rashid Abdalla, on diverse dates between October 6 and 27, 2015.

The police haven’t arrested Mohammed or the ‘invisible sheikhs’ as they apparently are afraid of venturing into the dark caves.

Aziz told the court that the invisible sheikhs asked for a bag, which disappeared but was returned full of cash equivalent to Sh105 million – the value of the mercury. The bag was then closed and keys handed to Aziz to open once the sheikhs secured a buyer for the mercury.

He said Mohamed had asked him and his team to bring with them Sh20,000 as entry fee into the cave and a big bag. He was told to place Sh300,000 in the four corners of the bag totalling Sh1.2 million.

He said that voices demanded the bag, which disappeared and when it returned, it was full of cash equivalent to Sh105 million.

The invisible sheikhs then demanded a second bag stashed with 1.5 million on each corner but when Aziz returned to the cave with the bag containing $60,000 (Sh6 million), the sheikhs were not impressed. They reportedly threatened and tortured Aziz, who was warned against going to work and was fined Sh100,000.

Every Thursday, Mohammed demanded Sh80,000 to feed the invisible sheikhs with camel meat. He gave Mohamed the cash directly or took it to the caves himself or through his friend. Aziz also catered for Mohamed’s travels from Tanzania and accommodation in Nyali during the entire duration of the rituals in Mombasa.

Aziz promised to reimburse the money in instalments. Hearing is set for Nov 25.

by Standardmedia.co.ke


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Courts

Man to be charged for telling police he’d been robbed

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A man will be arraigned today at the Kibera Law Courts for giving false information to police officers.

Mr Richard Muriuki is accused of lying to the police that he had been robbed at the Nyayo Stadium roundabout in Nairobi.

According to the DCI, on the night of October 20, 2020, Muriuki made a robbery with violence report at the Langata Police Station claiming that occupants of a car that had rammed into his, stole from him.

“Muriuki had reported that a white Nissan had hit his Toyota Fielder at the Nyayo Stadium roundabout along Mombasa road, forcing him to stop. It is at this point he alleged that three men, one brandishing a knife jumped out of the Nissan, confronted him, and took off with his vehicle,” DCI said in a statement on Twitter.

It later emerged that the entire report was a hoax since investigations revealed that on the day, Muriuki hit the said Nissan and fled the accident scene.

His vehicle was towed to Industrial Area Police Station for causing obstruction and detectives managed to track it down.

Muriuki was not robbed as he alleged and will be arraigned for giving false information to a public officer contrary to section 128 (a) of the penal code, the DCI said.

Elsewhere, police are seeking information on two suspects wanted for bank fraud.

DCI on Wednesday said it is pursuing Gerald Gatheru Mwai and Gladys Mwara Kamau, following a warrant of arrest issued by a Nairobi court last month.

Occupants of a car that had rammed into his, stole from him.

“Any person with information that may lead to their arrest to contact DCI headquarters – ECCU section, the nearest Police station, call or SMS 0773004776,” DCI said.

Cases of bank fraud and cybercrimes are not new as criminals become cannier by the day.

A report released in August 2020 identified Kenya being among countries where transnational criminal organisations operate.

Last October, DCI officers arrested three people among them a prison constable- Charles Opollo Ndaga. They were found in possession of over 10,000 Sim Cards, four mobile phones and a laptop.

In the same month, two Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) students were charged at the Milimani Law Courts for stealing Sh25 million from NCBA Bank. They were also accused of attempting to steal an additional Sh190.7 million from the same bank.

The two were released on a Sh500,000 cash bail each. So expansive is the syndicate who even operate outside the country.

by Standardmedia.co.ke


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Courts

Tob Cohen widow fights for home, dogs and Porsche

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The widow of murdered tycoon Tob Cohen, who was left empty-handed by her husband in his will, has launched a fresh fight for a Sh500 million home in Nairobi’s Kitisuru, a Porsche and two dogs.

Sarah Wairimu Kamotho has made a fresh application before the High Court arguing that she is entitled to half of the matrimonial home that is currently guarded by police as a crime scene.

The police, she says, have refused to grant her access to the home because they want to hand it over to Mr Cohen’s siblings.

“In violation of Article 40 of the Constitution and in abuse of the powers of their state offices, the respondents have continued to hold the petitioner’s jointly owned matrimonial property on the false pretense that it is a crime scene and maliciously allowed the petitioner’s home to fall into waste and destruction by taking no steps whatsoever to maintain and preserve the property an all the contents,” she says.

Ms Kamotho, who has jointly been charged with businessman Peter Karanja, with the murder of the golf organiser in July last year, also wants the court to compel the police to release her Porsche Cayenne, KBW 171 G, which she claims is her personal property and not Mr Cohen’s.

She says the police claimed that the vehicle was connected to the crime but the real intention is to hand it to Mr Cohen’s siblings.

Also sought is the release of two pet dogs named Major and Snow, which are being kept at the Kenya Society for the Protection and Care of Animals in Karen.

In the petition certified as urgent by High Court judge James Makau, Ms Kamotho through her lawyer says she wants to move into the house to avoid further wastage due to lack of maintenance, theft and possible vandalism.

Justice James Makau directed Ms Kamotho’s lawyer, Philip Murgor, to serve Director of Criminal Investigations (DCI) boss George Kinoti, Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Noordin Haji and the Attorney-General with the court papers within five days.

The house is under control of the police after the High Court ruled it was a crime scene.

Ms Kamotho has also accused the police of derailing the progress of the succession case pending in court, violating her rights.

She says the police have refused to give an undertaking that they will not interfere with or hand over her personal property and the house to Mr Cohen’s siblings.

Alternatively, Ms Kamotho wants the police and DPP to make an undertaking or give a bank guarantee for costs and damages arising from wastage, damage and neglect.

She is accusing the police of failing to provide a comprehensive inventory of all the property taken with the sole intention of handing the property to Cohen’s sister Gabrielle Van Straten, a nephew and niece.

In the succession case, Ms Kamotho is seeking to stop the transfer of the properties to Mr Cohen’s siblings.

The murdered tycoon did not leave any of his property and money to his widow Sarah.

Mr Cohen gave their Sh500 million matrimonial home, which has been the centre of the dispute, to his sister Gabrielle Van Straten and her children.

He also willed 50 per cent of his estate to Gabrielle, 25 per cent to her two daughters and another 25 per cent to his elder brother Bernard Cohen.

Ms Kamotho said her co-accused, Mr Karanja, made an application for the release of his vehicle and the application was allowed but in her case, the police have opposed the discharge of the Porsche.

Ms Kamotho was arrested on August 28, last year after the disappearance of her husband and detained for several days. Mr Cohen’s body was retrieved from a disused water tank at his home in Kitusuru more than 30 days after his disappearance.

She said the police cooked the evidence to implicate her in the murder.

In January, High Court judge Stella Mutuku allowed her a limited access to the home to pick her clothes, shoes, handbags, grooming tools and wearable items.

The court, however, rejected her application for removal of all police officers stationed at the home and for the police release of the two dogs to her.

Mr Cohen had lived in Kenya for more than 30 years, holding various positions including that of the CEO of Philips Group of Companies East Africa.

The case will be mentioned on November 30.

by BD


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