What you need to know:
- Sometimes the traps can be laid on an innocent Facebook page, Instagram or Snapchat and other dating sites like Tinder and Grindr.
- The scammers are usually reluctant to have a telephone conversation but are willing to have a lot of online chatting, say all the right things and lure a man
On November 28 last year, American Philipe Chiliade landed at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to meet his gay lovers whom he had fallen in love with after a brief encounter on Facebook.
Chiliade was chauffeured out of the airport in a cab and taken to a single room in Pipeline estate in Nairobi, where his life would turn into misery, in the hands of the purported lovers.
He was extensively tortured and robbed of everything by men who had promised romance but left him nursing serious injuries while slowly accepting the reality that he had lost everything to lust.
He was rescued by members of the public who intercepted a car he was being driven in back to the JKIA – where he was to be dumped.
The man driving the car - Fredrick Mutua - was handed over to officers at Embakasi Police Station.
During interrogation by the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI), Mutua claimed he had been invited by his cousins to cook for 'friend', Chiliade, as they attended to some other matters to attend to. He further claimed that he had travelled from Kithyoko in Machakos County to do the errand for a fee.
Detectives believed him after they established that Chiliade had been hoodwinked to travel to Nairobi from South Africa and had not communicated to Mutua prior to the incident. They were seemingly wrong.
Mutua was part of the four-man gang. His three accomplices had escaped with Chiliade’s money believed to be more Sh2 million, his travel documents and other personal belongings.
Chiliade had left his husband after he was hoodwinked by his newfound lovers, unaware that their intention was to rob him.
On December 2, 2019, Inspector Anderson Miriti of Embakasi DCI offices presented Mutua at Makadara Law Courts seeking orders to hold him for a week to assist police trace his cousins.
Mr Miriti told Senior Principal Magistrate Stephen Jalang’o that investigators were gathering evidence from JKIA and Kithyoko where the suspects were believed to have taken the loot, and Mutua would be a prosecution witness.
Mutua was freed thereafter as DCI continued to pursue his three cousins wanted for the crime.
Things went silent until Sunday, October 11, this year when Mutua was arrested in Ruaka, where he was caught red-handed while torturing and robbing Turkish national Bubak Amrullah.
Police say Amrullah had been lured into the house by Mutua’s female accomplice, Catherine Mumbi Kivuva, when he (Mutua) and his cousins Bernard Mbunga and Kelvin Nzioki descended on him.
The DCI detectives from Lang’ata were trailing Mutua and his accomplices in connection with a robbery in Imara Daima, Nairobi, where an Asian businessman was robbed after he went to meet his online lover who invited him to her house for sex.
The businessman had gone to Mutua’s cousin Mary Mukii Kioko’s house when he was attacked.
Ms Kioko, an actress with a production outfit in Machakos, was charged with violently robbing the victim of Sh453,000 jointly with others while armed with a knife on September 22 in Lang’ata.
Her cousins, Mr Mutua, Mr Mbunga and Mr Nzioki are all in custody at the Nyayo police station while Ms Kioko is awaiting bail and bond application ruling after Chief Magistrate Abdul Lorot of Kibera Law Courts asked for her social inquiry report before setting the terms.
The four suspects in police custody had escaped DCI’s dragnet in Imara Daima in Embakasi on October 3, where their cousins Ms Kioko and Mr Mutua’s brother Gideon Mbusu were arrested.
Lang’ata police commander Gregory Mutiso said police have identified the online dating-related robbery as a new trend in crime involving criminals who are luring men on the internet.
Mr Mutiso said the gangs are targeting wealthy men who have families and reputations at stake. These cases increased after the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic with many people forced to stay and work indoors.
Mr Mutiso said the biggest challenge in bring the culprits to book is the reluctance of the victims to come forward and report after they have been robbed.
For example, the Asian victim allegedly robbed by Ms Kioko and her accomplices claimed he was abducted in Nairobi West although he met the suspects on Mombasa Road.
“We have seen reluctance among some men who don’t want to report because some of them are family men and being exposed. We have a challenge because others don’t even want the cases to proceed. I know many have been robbed but don’t want to come out because for fear of being embarrassed,” Mr Mutiso said.
“In one case, a complainant, who was robbed nearly half a million, has completely declined to record a statement. Even if you take the suspect to court, they will eventually be acquitted.
“I am warning men to be careful. If you are seeking a relationship, date a person that you can see and not online because you don’t know the person you are chatting with. These men are using pictures of beautiful and curvy women to lure you and very few (men) can resist,” he added.
Mr Mutiso is appealing to men who have been robbed in this manner to forward and report to the police.
He says an identification parade will be conducted to pick out the culprits, then cases will be referred to the police jurisdictions where the crimes happened.
The police boss said detectives are ready to help all men who have been robbed in the same way and promised confidentiality.
These criminals not only target foreigners.
A 38-year-old woman who lured her online lover, before four men, including one claiming to be her husband, stormed the house and joined her in allegedly robbing him, was charged with robbery with violence before the Makadara Law Courts on June 24.
Eunice Wambui was charged with robbing Dennis Ntabo of his phone worth Sh23,000, an ATM card, a chain worth Sh1,500 and Sh5,000 in Kahawa West in Nairobi on May 18.
She was also accused of transferring Sh15,946 from Ntabo's M-Pesa account.
Mr Ntabo, 32, was delivering electronics to a client and decided to contact Ms Wambui - his then Facebook girlfriend - to quarantine in her house because he could not beat the then 7pm curfew deadline.
Ms Wambui took him to her house and, a few minutes later, four men stormed the house and tortured him the whole night.
Protection and Safety Association of Kenya (PROSAK) Secretary-General Deelano Kiilu said the incidents, which are spiking in the country, are a result of the Covid-19 pandemic because people have been forced to stay at home and remain online.
As such, Kiiu explains, men on the internet begin to live in the universe surrounded by galaxies of online activities.
This, combined with psychological pressure and loneliness, especially for single men, Kiilu says, has presented a great opportunity for criminals easily lure their victims into their traps.
“What we are seeing is a trend called the honey trap. A man will stumble on a picture or a video of a very beautiful 'woman' online who he will then be tempted to reach out to and to chat with. She will seem very open and willing to talk to him and will slowly entice him into a relationship on the internet,” Kiilu says.
“When a man believes he is going to get value out of that relationship, he is then lured into a trap of physical entanglement with this 'woman'. But that occurs at either the 'woman’s' home or in a secluded location where he can be taken advantage of by 'her' collaborators in the activity.”
Mr Kiilu said the women are aware that psychologically men are attracted to beauty so the women are using that allure to draw the man into the honey trap.
The worst scenarios that have been perpetrated are men posing as women online to entice a man into an entanglement.
But when the man reaches the destination, he finds men waiting for him. They will pounce on him, blackmail, torture and even rob him as in the recent cases.
Mr Kiilu said people create personas on various online dating portals.
Sometimes, Mr Kiilu said, the traps can be laid on an innocent Facebook page, Instagram or Snapchat and other dating sites like Tinder and Grindr.
A victim then finds himself lured into an online conversation. The scammers are usually reluctant to have a telephone conversation but are willing to have a lot of online chatting, say all the right things and lure a man, Mr Kiilu said.
“When they use this honey trap to lure a man to get to the particular location, the game is over. He is robbed of what he has and abandoned. In a lot of the cases we have seen, since the victims fear embarrassment, they don't report to the police. They decide to leave and live very quietly,” Mr Kiilu said.
“In one incident that happened in Ngumo estate, a man woke up and found himself naked in a bed in his hotel room. The hotel management told him that he came in with some women and paid for everything. Apperently, the man woke up three days later without a single cent and his bank accounts cleaned. His ATM cards had been used to wipe clean his banlk accounts.”