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When the buried crawl from their graves to rob the living

KENYA
By Kamore Maina | February 15th 2021
The Presbyterian Church of East Africa (PCEA) Secretary General Reverend Peter Kania address the press at PCEA Lanet Parish on August 13, 2017. [File]

Watching, in horror movies, as the dead crawl from the grave, steal from the living and creep back into their caskets leaving in their wake horrified and traumatized victims, can be thrilling.

But now, a new breed of criminals is rewriting these horror scripts, with a twist where the dead steal from millionaires long buried.

Sample this: On July 26 last year, Rev Peter Kania Kariuki, the senior-most cleric of the Presbyterian Church of East Africa, succumbed to Covid-19-related complications at a Nairobi hospital.

About two months later, on November 22, 2020, Nairobi businessman Amos Ngata Muiruri died at a hospital in Nairobi after undergoing surgery.

Unknown to their families, however, the two men were doing business from their graves and transacting huge sums.

The family of the late Kania is now in shock after it emerged he was under investigation by the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) for an offense that happened months after he was buried.

The family of the late Ngata is equally in shock after Sh2.8 million vanished from his bank account.

The case of two dead men involved in crime was brought to the attention of the DCI and investigation has revealed that the theft was committed by fraudsters who forged details of dead men and used their identities to commit crimes.

A week after Ngata was buried at his farm in Ndunyu Njeru in Nyandarua County on December 2, 2020, one of his children realised the cell phone he (Ngata) used for mobile bank transactions had suddenly gone dead. 

He reported the matter to a mobile service provider and the line was reinstated. He was advised to report the matter to the DCI.

After conducting an audit on their father’s finances, the family learnt that Sh2.8 million held in different bank accounts had vanished.

The children went to the banks and realised the money left behind by their father had been withdrawn through a mobile number registered to Peter Kania Kariuki.

The man who had apparently withdrawn the money was not known to them, and the bank advised that they report the matter to the DCI.

Detectives from the DCI Special Service Unit last week established that the mobile number used to clean up the businessman’s accounts was the same that was held by Kania before his death.

It is then that the investigators visited the late cleric’s home. They were shocked to find that the deceased’s accounts had also been wiped out using the same line.

Detectives from the DCI Crime Research and Intelligence bureau established that Kania's cellphone number was still in use despite his family being in possession of his phone and the registered line.

On Friday detectives tracked the man in possession of Kania's cellphone number and arrested him. The man, now in custody, formerly worked for a local bank and is an IT guru. Police also arrested a clerk at the Registrar of Persons, and who is believed to be part of the fraudsters.

Mobile phone records revealed how the scammers withdrew the money from Ngata's bank accounts in batches using the cellphone registered in the name of Kania. 

The crooks then transferred the cash to three other cellphone numbers, which were later switched off and discarded as soon as the money was withdrawn.

So how does this racket work?

According to the investigators, fraudsters pick their targets, mostly prominent and wealthy individuals, from the obituary pages of local newspapers. Once they have identified their victim they search for their mobile phone numbers.

Armed with the cellphone number, the fraudsters use their network that spreads all the way to Registrar of Persons, where they get further details such as identity card number and date of birth, which mobile service providers require when registering a line.

They then call the mobile service providers pretending to be the owners of the line (belonging to the deceased) and report that they have lost their phone and require a sim replacement. With that, they are given a new line.

How do they know the personal identification number?

Investigators say from experience in the banking and IT they have established that many use the last digits of their birth dates or ID card numbers as their passwords.

If your PIN is your date of birth or digits of your ID, the fraudsters will access your bank accounts and mobile money lenders.

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