Eight suspects arrested in KES 500 million Fuliza fraud scheme

Isaack Kipkemoi, Gideon Rono, Maxwell Ributhu, Gideon Kirui, Moses Rono, Collins Kipyegon and Edwin Cheruiyot

The Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) has arrested eight men who were part of a high-level syndicate that scammed close to KES 500 million through the popular mobile phone platform Fuliza.

The suspects were found in possession of thousands of Safaricom and Airtel SIM cards that they used in a well-coordinated scheme to obtain money through Safaricom’s overdraft service.

The eight young men, based in Nakuru and Trans-Nzoia counties, used fraudulently generated identity card numbers to register the SIM cards before borrowing money through the application.

“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 in a statement on social media.

DCI says that data from the Banking Fraud Investigations Unit (BFIU) showed over 123,000 new mobile phone numbers opted into Fuliza in January 2022 and took up loans, but the SIM cards were later either fraudulently vacated or switched off, and the borrowers could not be reached.

The investigation into this well-choreographed fraud began after a report was filed to BFIU in August 2022 after managers of the fund noticed an unusual spike in Fuliza loan uptakes.

The investigation revealed that the SIM cards had been registered fraudulently by one of the suspects, Peter Gitahi, who is suspected of having access to the National Registration Bureau database.

He allegedly used falsified identity numbers to carry out the high-profile fraud. The suspects would sell the fraudulently registered SIM cards to their accomplices, who would then perpetrate the fraud.

The suspects would initially borrow money and repay it to improve their credit scores before eventually borrowing for the last time and disposing of the SIM card. One identity card was used to register five lines in this daring SIM scam.

The Fuliza service allows customers to complete MPESA transactions even if they do not have enough funds in their accounts.

The suspects, who were aged between 24 and 30 years, lived in an apartment in Kiamunyi and had acquired 2 brand new Subarus, one Toyota Mark X, a Toyota Probox, and two motorbikes.

The operation by the detectives led to the recovery of 14 mobicom phones used in registering MPESA user SIM cards, 6 laptops, over 40 mobile phones, 7 routers, assorted Safaricom lines, over 1000 Safaricom subscriber registration forms, over 200 ATM cards from all major banks, and car agreements.

DCI said the suspects are being interrogated for more insights into the high-level fraud before being arraigned in court.

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