In a major bust, detectives In Kenya have uncovered a massive fraud ring that defrauded Safaricom, Kenya’s leading mobile communication service provider, of close to $4 million.
According to a report by the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI), the suspects, aged between 24-30 years, used Safaricom’s overdraft service Fuliza to obtain the funds through a well-coordinated plan.
“Isaack Kipkemoi, Gideon Rono, Maxwell Ributhu, Gideon Kirui, Moses Rono, Collins Kipyegon and Edwin Cheruiyot were arrested at an apartment in Kiamunyi, while the mastermind Peter Gitahi was arrested in Kitale, Trans-Nzoia County following the meticulous operation by our officers,” DCI said.
DCI disclosed that detectives began investigations into the well-choreographed fraud after a report was filled to the Banking Fraud Investigations Unit (BFIU) in August 2022, after the managers of the fund detected an unusual spike in Fuliza loan uptakes that were way above their performance scale and the borrowers were not repaying the loans.
The BFIU report indicated that over 123,000 new mobile phone numbers opted into Fuliza and took up loans in January 2022. Thereafter, the SIM cards were either fraudulently vacated or switched off and efforts to reach the customers turned futile.
It is after further investigations, according to the DCI, that detectives realized that the SIM cards had been registered fraudulently by Peter Gitahi, one of the suspects identified who is suspected to have access to the National Registration Bureau database, where he allegedly develops falsified identity numbers used in the high-profile fraud.
After developing the numbers and registering the lines, the DCI allege Gitahi would sell them to his accomplices based in Nakuru who would then perpetuate the fraud.
The detectives uncovered that some of the lines had been registered as Safaricom agents where the borrowed funds would be deposited to personal bank accounts belonging to the individuals, disguised as Mpesa float.
“The seemingly industrious suspects would initially borrow money and repay thereby improving their credit scores until the SIM cards achieved their limits when they would borrow for the last time before disposing of the SIM card. One identity card would be used to register 5 lines in the daring SIM scam perpetuated by the young men, aged between 24-30 years,” the DCI said.
Investigations also revealed that the suspects lived largely in an apartment at Kiamunyi. Through their craft, DCI says they acquired 2 brand new Subarus, one Toyota Mark X, a Toyota Probox and two motorbikes for their ease of movement.
During the operation, the detectives recovered 14 mobile phones used in registering MPESA user SIM cards, 6 laptops, over 40 mobile phones, 7 routers, assorted Safaricom lines, over 1000 Safaricom subscribers’ registration forms, over 200 ATM cards from all major banks, car agreements among other exhibits. Detectives are currently interrogating the suspects for more insights into the high-level fraud before arraigning them in court.
With high levels of unemployment, young, educated Kenyans are turning to cybercrimes to make a living. The scammers, often university students, use the money to fund lavish lifestyles and purchase property.
Last year, the Kenyan government has established a cyber forensic laboratory to counter the utilization of advanced technology for illegal purposes.