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Pyramid scheme ruthlessly wiped out my family

By Joe Kiarie | January 24th 2015

Johnson Kivuti makes no attempt to hide his bitterness. He shakes with anger when describing how he slid from a luxurious life to utter destitution after losing his retirement benefits in a pyramid scheme.

The elderly man’s voice fades away as he recounts the subsequent loss of his wife and son, and the disappearance of another son, all as a direct result of the investment gone wrong.

For 12 years, Kivuti (pictured) worked for the General Service Unit (GSU). He resigned in 1987 while holding the rank of a Major to join Lonrho Africa as the security supervisor, before retiring in 2004.

He proceeded to secure a mortgage for a house worth Sh1.8 million in Nairobi’s Umoja One estate in 2005. The following year, he invested Sh1 million in Kenya Business Community Sacco Ltd, hoping he could use the credit services on offer to service the mortgage and educate his children.

But he was in for a rude shock. “The scheme went under in 2007, and all my efforts to get my money back failed,” he laments.

Before long, Kivuti’s world started crumbling down: “I had defaulted in making mortgage payments for several months. “With a balance of Sh700, 000, the National Housing Corporation auctioned the house and all my household items in November 2007.”

The devastation soon turned tragic:  “My wife, Lucy Ireri, had been greatly disturbed by bad news. On the day the house was auctioned, she collapsed and was admitted at Kenyatta National Hospital where she died on the first night.”

His eldest son, Joseph Gichovi, 21, was then a Fourth Year student at the Kenya Medical Training College (KMTC) in Nairobi. He needed Sh80,000 to complete his studies. “I could not raise the money and he committed suicide in Buruburu estate,” notes a visibly-shaken Ireri.

His second-born son, Suleiman Nyaga, had been admitted to KMTC Nakuru where he was to report in early 2008.

“I told him one afternoon that I could not afford his school fees. That was the last time I saw him. I don’t know whether he is dead or alive,” he states.

After the traumatising burial of beloved family members, a broke and homeless Ireri was left with no option but to resign to his rural village in Gatondo Mwana Wa Giti Location, in Manyatta Constituency, Embu County.

Here, he did not have a house and to add to the agony, he had with him his last-born son, Robert Kariuki, then in Standard Three. For months on end, father and son ended up taking refuge under a tree on their farm, with polythene papers the only roof over their heads. That was until Bishop Paul Kariuki of the Embu Catholic Diocese came to their rescue, and constructed for them a mud-walled house that they live in today.

The frail Kivuti has since been out of hospital with hypertension among other diseases. His son, depends on well wishers for his education.

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