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Kenyan jailed in UK for stealing Sh200m

SCI & TECH
By Kenfrey Kiberenge in London | Jul 23rd 2012 | 3 min read
By Kenfrey Kiberenge in London | July 23rd 2012
SCI & TECH

By Kenfrey Kiberenge in London

A native Kenyan will cool his heels in a UK prison for three years after police smashed a sophisticated phishing scam that stole Sh200 million from students.

Amos Njoroge Mwangi, 26, was jailed for three years and three months for his involvement in the scam, which was concluded last week following a successful operation by detectives from the UK Metropolitan Police Central e-Crime Unit.

He had stolen Sh942,348 (£7,139) before his arrest in December 2011. It was not immediately clear if Mwangi had changed his citizenship.

Media reports indicate that Mwangi had previously been charged with alleged links to a similar fraud, but further investigations revealed he was not part of the larger scheme.

Twenty-seven year old Damola Clement Olatunji, a Nigerian native will also spend six years and five months in prison. Olatunji had stolen Sh40 million (£304,000).

Metropolitan Police say there is no evidence that the two worked together, but maintain both were responsible for scamming students.

They targeted their victims through government loan schemes by sending emails inviting them to update details on their student loan account via a link to a bogus website.

Police say when the site was accessed by the unsuspecting victims, the suspects gained unauthorised access to their bank accounts and extracted large amounts of money - ranging from Sh132,000 £1000 to Sh660,000 (£5000) at a time.

Computers seized from Mwangi, who lived in Rochdale Way, Deptford, revealed he had numerous computer programmes which enabled him to build phishing emails and register fake websites.

Prior to his arrest, he worked as a data administrator for Hackney Community College (HCC) in Falkirk Street, London.

Investigations showed that he sent out emails using his work email address purporting to be from an official in charge of student loans in the cyber fraud known as phishing.

Mwangi was nabbed by detectives in December 2011 when officers traced him through his work email address.

Prosecutor David Hughes said: "At the material time, Amos Mwangi was employed in further education at Hackney Community College as a data administrator. He was using the computer and his email address in connection with the fraud.

"The actual sum we can say is directly linked to Mr Mwangi in terms of successfully obtained monies is Sh942,348 (£7,139)."

Mwangi admitted sending about 50 phishing emails when he pleaded guilty to one count of fraud and one count of making or adapting an article for use in fraud in March.

A spokesman for HCC said: "We can confirm that no Hackney Community College students were affected by this. Mr Mwangi had no direct access to the college's student data. He was suspended immediately without pay and, on conviction, his employment is terminated."

Mwangi was accused of fraud by misrepresentation, for which he was handed 12 months. He was also found guilty of making or adapting articles for use in fraud and sentenced to three years and three months. Both sentences run concurrently.

Handing out the sentence, Judge David Higgins said Mwangi committed a "pre-meditated, well planned, sophisticated, and sustained" fraud.

Forensic evidence from Olatunji revealed in excess of 1,300 student loan account log in details and investigators were able to link him to Sh40 million (£304,000) worth of actual fraud and Sh21.4 million(£162,000) attempted fraud.

Investigators also found evidence he was involved in a separate fraud valued at Sh9.9 million (£75,000) against Halifax PLC bank customers.

As part of their inquiries, detectives worked closely with the Students Loan Company, the banking industry and internet service providers.

On December 7, working with colleagues from Greater Manchester Police, detectives executed search warrants at addresses in London and Manchester. A number of computers and associated storage media were seized from the properties.

Detective Inspector Jason Tunn, PCeU said: “Mwangi and Olatunji were determined fraudsters who systematically targeted British students in order to steal large amounts of money. Despite the complexity of the investigation, PCeU investigators working closely with the Student Loan Company and other partners, were able to identify those responsible and bring them to justice.”

While Olatunji’s sentence was handed on July 10, Mwangi was jailed in June this year but the Metropolitan Police had not released details about his sentence until earlier this month.

A further six people were arrested as part of the investigation. Of those, four remain on bail while two were released without any charges.

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