As with all fraudulent schemes, the masterminds behind Simple Homes knew one day they would close shop and the scam will blow up. They covered their tracks from the first day till they disappeared two weeks ago.
Victims of the scam are currently coming together with an aim of suing the owners of the company for damages.
“We are supposed to do our civil case on our own and the police pursue their criminal case on their own. We were expecting arrests this week but new complainants keep coming,” Haron Gatiji, the spokesman of the victims, says.
“It is not going to be impossible to arrest them. The criminal bit we leave to the police because we are citizens of this country and we pay taxes and no one should do the same thing they did to us to anyone,” he says.
Director of Criminal Investigations Ndegwa Muhoro could not be reached on phone yesterday to comment on the matter but an aide told us he was in meetings.
While it remains to be seen whether the masterminds will be arrested, what is clear though is that they are perfect masters of deception, good at shaking off anyone who tried to investigate them.
Even after converting to Islam as a cover, Lilian Wangui alias Kui Rukwaro alias Lee Rukwaro and now Maryam Wangui stayed at the same one bedroom apartment she was living in before starting Simple Homes.
With hundreds of millions of shillings within her control, she still drove a silver coloured Nissan Note and lived in Ruaka with her elder sister Hellen Wambui. Apart from her, none of the other directors ever spoke to the media despite their vigorous marketing campaigns.
The names of directors on the company’s website are different from the names of directors listed at the Attorney General’s office. On the website, Joyce Manyasi, Kui Rukwaro, Dalida Shah and Ken Mutuma are listed as directors. But at the AG’s, Lilian Wangui, Hellen Wambui and The Online Commodity Exchange Company Limited are directors.
Further, as it turns out, their media contact person Dalidah Shah who was apparently the director of sales and marketing, may have been non-existent. The company started at The Mirage building on Chiromo Road where it stayed for the better part of 2016 before moving to Centenary House offices on October 1.
Initially, payments by clients were being deposited at NIC Bank, account number 1003357418 before being switched to their Equity Bank account number 0550270262803.
“When the clients asked why we had changed from NIC Bank to Equity, they said it is part of the company strategy and we were told to focus on our work,” a former employee said.
It was at this stage that the company’s owners started rolling out the exit strategy. First, Lilian Wangui stopped coming to the offices and employees were told she had moved to different offices. Meanwhile, she had converted to Islam and changed names. Then Argwings Kodhek ‘resigned’ from the company and new directors were apparently ‘hired’.
Wangui was replaced by a Rehema Wanjiku Ndungu while Kodhek was replaced by Walter Muigai. An officer at the Directorate of Criminal Investigations who is working on the case said Wanjiku was using an alias and they believe she is Wangui’s elder sister Wambui.
Muigai never showed his face to the employees for five months and was only accessible through a weekly conference with the sales team. It is suspected that Muigai was indeed Kodhek. Audio recordings of the Muigai and Kodhek sound identical but Kodhek has refused to respond to our queries.
To create further confusion, another layer of management was added and in came an Elijah Ngunjiri who, Lilian Wangui, the company’s general manager, claims was also using a fake name. When contacted yesterday, the man only known as Kingston, denied ever being part of the scam. “I did not work with them, I never did and I was never part of this nonsense,” he said.
“Like I stated, it is just a way of trying to divert the attention by making it look like I was part of it. I have been called by so many people telling me I was working for them,” he said. Within the last week of February, the company’s website was shut down, official emails for employees scrambled and the Facebook page deleted. They were then told to hand over their office phones. It was still a week before the company shut down but even then, the management was still lying to the employees about what was happening.
“We switched them off because clients are calling over the Facebook issue so the trainee is left wondering what to answer,” said Muigai in a message to an employee when asked why the phones were down.
Eventually when the chickens came home to roost on March 5, Muigai sent another message to the employees warning them they risked being arrested. “You need to stay online. I have been arrested with all the staff from Kiambu. Get out of the office and carry all the information you can. The police are on their way to you,” he said. By then Lilian Wangui, Argwings Kodhek and Hellen Wambui were long gone.