There is a certain sense of fear as one approaches slum areas in Bondeni on the outskirts of Nakuru town. As one walks through the alleys, you spot a group of idle youth sitting along pavements that lead to Kaloleni, Kivumbini, Kisulisuli and Flamingo.
You will spot hawk-eyed youth who keenly monitor movement of individuals and watch out for strangers.
As the Saturday Standard learn, these are not just random youth, it is an outlawed criminal gang that terrorise members of the public. They go by the name Confirm Group.
“Who are you and what have you come to do here?” one gang member asked this reporter.
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Our guide, a local, had earlier warned us against identifying ourselves as journalists. The team had to pose like public health officers inspecting the sanitation situation.
Confirm Group is a criminal gang that operates with impunity by obtaining money fraudulently through mobile money transfer services, muggings and robberies.
The group consists of more than 1,000 youth who come from different estates within Nakuru town but operate in slums.
“Do not stare at any of them. Avoid making eye contact. They are daring, dangerous and can easily kill you,” our guide whispered.
The gang members sit on plastic chairs in groups of between four and 20 people who are on most occasions glued to their phones. Some have more than two mobile phones for ‘business’.
The scenario they create is that of an outdoor customer care desk where people seeking mobile money transaction on phone are ‘heard and helped’. They randomly pick mobile numbers which they send fraudulent messages purporting to be original M-Pesa transaction texts. Phone conversations are strategic and targeted.
M-Pesa agents targeted
“Hello mummy! Samahani, nimekosea nikakutumia pesa. Tafadhali nirudishie kwa sababu nilikuwa namtumia mamangu ambaye ni mgonjwa. (I am sorry I have just sent you money that was intended for my sick mother,” is a typical line they use to dupe unsuspecting people.
Several residents have fallen victim of these con traps. Beatrice Kimani is one of them. She was forced to send Sh5,000 after receiving a text form the criminals.
She said she was directed to go to an agent who could help reverse the money. She rushed but unfortunately the agent was also a victim of the con game.
“Mobile money fraud is real. I sent some cash after someone called informing me that he had transacted money in my account by mistake, money that was meant for school fees,” Kimani said.
M-Pesa agent Grace said she receives at least five complaints of such nature.
Lucky for her, she knows their schemes and is always alert.
“To help curb this crime, some of us have declined to serve them. They buy airtime in thousands hoping to reach the highest number of ignorant persons possible,” she said.
From the proceeds of these activities, the gang have enriched themselves.
Youths as young as 16, own property within and outside the estates.
Even as the crime thrives indications show peer pressure and drug abuse are the main cause of the problem. Reports show the drugs are hidden in a house in Bondeni. Tellingly, police have also been accused of being part of the problem.
“Each day they collect money from the ‘operation’ dubbed ‘Gitati’,” said a source who sought anonymity.
Apparently, Gitati is a term used to refer to merry-go round collections by the police in form of bribes from operators of Confirm Group, explained the source. With the police hands tainted, it is understandable why they look away as this crime thrives.
Nakuru Central Community Policy organising secretary and elder Joseph Macharia, said the criminal gang has been re-grouping for the past five years under police watch.
“The police should act, it is annoying that despite criminals roaming in the estates, nothing is being done,” said Macharia.
Nakuru OCPD Samuel Obara rubbished the claims that police are colluding with the gang.
“According to me, we don’t have members of Confirm Group. Let anyone claiming its operation launch a complaint with the police,” said Obara.
Asked why they allow a group of idle youth to roam the estates, Obara said these are just idlers who are unemployed and when they engage in crime, they are arrested.
Each single day, he said at least 20 youth are rounded and arraigned in court over felony.