Workers at a building stones quarry in Ndarugo, Kiambu County.

| Simon Ciuri | Nation Media Group

How fake Ndarugo quarry owners mint millions from innocent buyers

If you have saved enough money and are now planning to buy land in the Ndarugu area in Juja, Kiambu County, you have one more thing to worry about.

Normally, the first worry is surviving being cheated by being duped into buying non-existent land or being a victim of double allocation by rouge land selling companies.

But at Ndarugo quarry, just before you get to Witeithie town, a Kikuyu word that can be loosely translated as “help yourself” or “you are on your own”, building stone fraudsters posing as genuine quarry owners, cashiers and managers continue to mint millions from innocent buyers who flock quarries to buy stones in the race to own houses outside Nairobi where land is relatively cheaper.

Mr Simon Mwaura wanted to build a two-bedroom house in Wathiani in Sabasaba village, Murang'a County. He travelled all the way to Witeithie to buy 1,500 building stones.

He negotiated with a lorry driver on the cost to transport the stones to his village, and after agreeing on the price, they drove to a quarry named DM.

There they met one Joseph Mwangi, who introduced himself as the quarry manager, complete with receipt book and coat-tag. The lorry was lined up for loading after Mr Mwaura had agreed to a price of Sh25,500 for 1,500 pieces with the ‘manager’.

Mr Mwaura paid the person who has now been charged in court with obtaining money by false pretences, but as they drove out of the quarry, they were stopped by the real quarry manager, who informed him that the person he claimed to have paid was an impostor.

Mr Mwangi had already fled the scene and switched off his mobile phone and, in desperation, Mr Mwaura forked out another Sh50,000, losing a total of Sh75,500.

Mr Mwangi was later arrested and arraigned at the Thika Magistrate's Court and released on a cash bail of Sh20,000. He jumped bail and never returned to court. Mr Mwaura has never recovered his money, eight years down the line.

“I have given up chasing the money and I doubt I will ever get it back,'' Mr Mwaura told Nation.

Mr Francis Kinuthia Mbugua, in a statement filed at Juja Police Station, also sought stones in Ndarugo for a house he was building in Kakamega.

He says in his statement that, on July 8, 2023, he met one Julius Maina Kibui, the driver of lorry registration number KBF 502W, whom he hired to transport the stones to Kakamega.

He parted with Sh35,000 and was later told to add Sh5070. He lost it all and that was the last he heard of Mr Kibui.

“Since then, he [Mr Kibui] has disappeared and does not answer calls," says Mr Mbugua. The case is filed under OB34/21/07/2023.

The same happened to Mr Fredrick Otieno, a resident of Githurai 45, who on February 24 this year went to the quarry to buy the building stones.

He wanted 2,000 pieces when he met one Michael Maingi, who pretended to be the owner of the quarry,

and paid him Sh46,000 through mobile money. He lost the money and the culprit was never arrested. His case is filed under 0B 26/27/02/2023.

The list of those who have lost money runs into the hundreds with their complaints filed at Juja and Witeithie police stations.

Mr Francis Kanja of Juja had sent a driver to buy 1,000 stones in Ndarugo and transport them to Keruguya to a customer. He lost Sh28,500 and the suspect was never arrested.

To understand the context of the whole saga, Nation visited Ndarugo's vast quarries. We started with those near Nyacaba, then Mugutha, Bob Hallis and Benvar.

But even before we got to these areas, a small stop on Mang’u Road off the Thika superhighway, we were the target of fraud and deception.

Two of the more than 30 men we counted waiting to prey on potential buyers had already stopped, claiming to be able to take us to open quarries with the best building stones. We obliged, hiding our intentions.

As we drove on the Mugutha side, along the way, one excused himself and asked to be dropped off, claiming he had just received an urgent call, but it was evident that it was a ploy to keep in touch with his colleague who had stayed behind with us.

We later learnt that the person who got out was the one who was to be paid via mobile money transfer had we fallen for their tricks.

On the way, his colleague, who had stayed in the car with us, picked up another person we had found sitting under a tree. We drove with the duo for about four kilometres and finally arrived at a quarry.

In the car, he had been introduced to us as the quarry manager.

We were told a 5 by 6 stone would cost Sh27, but we settled on Sh19. We told him we wanted 3,000 pieces. The supposed manager excused himself, saying he was consulting his boss, and returned within a minute to tell us that his boss had agreed. We politely told him we would return as we now understood the pricing based on size and quantity and the logistics.

The red flag to look out for is that even if a buyer says that he wants to buy a stone for Sh5 or Sh10, the fraudster will readily agree as he has nothing to lose, but the reality sets in when after loading the stones into the lorry, the real quarry manager or owner shows up and demands payment. In most cases, both the real quarry managers and the fraudsters work together. It is very easy to get scammed at the Ndarugo quarries because there are no permanent offices and the makeshift offices that exist are metres away from the quarry.

Juja Sub-county Police Commander Phyllis Muthoni said the scam is widespread. Many arrests are made, but after the suspects are charged in court, they jump bail and never return for fear that more victims they have previously conned may turn up.

“We have many cases under investigation with many arrests made but the suspects, when presented in court and released on cash bail or bond, never attend court fearing more people they have conned may turn up,'' Ms Muthoni told Nation in her office.

“We have been working on this issue and we are closing in on the perpetrators. But even as we embark on arrests, we will soon start sensitising the locals through the local administration. We would also like to urge the quarry owners to form an association

and have a designated office where buyers can pay officials only for the product sold and a disclaimer notice put up in the quarry indicating who should be paid,'' she added, cautioning that, before the actual purchase, it is better to visit the quarry a day or two prior to ascertain the real owner.

“Also, if someone promises to sell you building stones, don't pay before delivery and make sure it is the quality you ordered,'' she advised.

The Association of Real Estate Stakeholders, headed by Mr Kinyua Wairatu, who is the chairman, says that fraud at the Ndarugo quarry affects both individual buyers and construction companies, and maintains that there is the need for intervention to curb the vice.