Kisii 'bishop' accused of scamming US visa aspirants out of Sh1.4m
Police in Kisii are holding a man for allegedly defrauding US visa applicants of nearly Sh1.5 million.
The man, who claims to be a bishop of the Pentecostal Evangelistic Fellowship of Africa (PEFA) church, was arrested after dozens of his followers reported the scam to police.
Kisii police chief Charles Kases confirmed that Samson Obonyo had been arrested on charges of obtaining money by false pretences.
Police said Obonyo told unsuspecting young men and women that he had networks at the US embassy and could secure visas for them.
"Victims say he told them they had to pay a fee to 'facilitate' their visa. He got Sh1,480,000 from unsuspecting youths who were eager to be employed in America."
Mr Kases said 20 people had filed police complaints against Obonyo.
The police boss further said: "After collecting the money from the victims, the suspect went underground. He was arrested in the sprawling Jogoo estate following a tip-off."
One of the victims, identified as
Sophia Gesare, claimed that the bishop made an announcement in the church in 2019, saying there were opportunities for young people in the area to travel to the US for work.
"I am a member of Pefa church in Itibo. The bishop announced in the church that there are opportunities for people to go to the US. In 2020, the plans were suspended ostensibly because of the Covid pandemic, but after international travel resumed, the bishop disappeared with our money and passports," Ms Gesare said.
Mrs Gesare said in a police statement that she collected Sh2 million and gave it to Obonyo to help her children.
"He told me to spread the word and get as many people as possible. He said he would give me land to raise the money," she said.
Ms Gesare's claims were backed by Tiberius Mosoti, who claimed he gave Obonyo Sh200,000 for a chance to travel to the US.
"After paying the money, the bishop asked us to meet him in Nairobi at the US embassy. We got a rude shock when we got there, he was nowhere to be seen. He did not pick our calls and we were stranded in the city before we returned home," Mosoti said.
Ms Gesare also said in her statement that the bishop told dozens of young people who had paid him money to get US visas to travel to Nairobi for medical examinations. Obonyo claimed the medical reports were needed for visa processing.
"When they arrived in Nairobi, they were taken to a lodge and later to a house where a quack doctor came and pretended to do medical examinations for the US Embassy," Ms Gesare alleged.
This is not the first time a clergyman has duped people in Kisii seeking US visas.
Four years ago, another cleric collected millions of shillings from his followers in Suneka town, claiming he could help them obtain travel documents to the US.
A woman sold her minibus and paid the cleric, who promised to arrange a sham marriage between her daughter and a man who had won a green card.
After pocketing the money, the man travelled to the US, promising to claim the young woman. However, when he arrived in Minnesota, USA, he blocked the woman.