How Nakuru residents lost millions in jobs fraud

Nakuru City

An aerial view of Nakuru town as seen on November 30, 2021. 

Photo credit: Courtesy

Last November, Cynthia* (not her real name) came across her friend's WhatsApp status advertising a business selling health supplements.

Intrigued, she visited the firm’s offices in downtown Nakuru, where she was introduced to someone whom the company, which touted itself as championing a healthy and wealthy lifestyle, said would be her mentor.

The “mentor” pitched the health benefits of their supplements, emphasising disease prevention and outlining a compensation scheme where Cynthia would be paid between Sh4,800 and Sh6,000 for each new client she introduced.

To Cynthia, it was like killing two birds with one stone; gaining financial independence while at the same time promoting health. She decided to join the venture, selecting a package with a price tag of Sh42,000.

“They said the health supplements prevent diseases like cancer, arthritis and others which are expensive to treat. [The mentor] told me that they were new in Nakuru but many people had already joined,” she told Nation.

She was required to pay the total amount to receive her supplements within a week.

She managed to raise half the money through her savings and contributions from friends, but, to unlock the full package, she was told, she had to enlist more clients to the programme.

“I was hesitant at first, but I told myself that it was my friend who referred me so it had to be genuine. After paying half the money, I asked when I could get the supplements. I was told I would get the product after unlocking the full package through client referrals,” she said.

However, her anticipation turned to disappointment as the company continued to withhold the promised supplements, citing the need for additional client recruitment.

Frustrated and feeling deceived, Cynthia attempted to contact the company, but her inquiries were met with evasion.

Even her friend, who had initially introduced her to the business, redirected her back to the firm, which would often send text messages, urging her to attend online meetings.

“When I was given my receipt, I was close to client number 750, meaning there were many others who had come before me and had suffered the same fate. I did not know they were con artists. They had a physical office and employees. The way they explained the scheme to me made it look so real. I have been trying to reach out to them to ask them to refund my money. I hope one day we will get our money back,” she said.

Another victim, Sharon*, fell prey to the scheme after being enticed by her neighbour, who promised substantial earnings for referring new clients.

Driven by the allure of financial gain, Sharon opted for the highest-priced package, going as far as taking out a loan to fund her entry into what she believed was a lucrative business venture.

However, the reality proved starkly different, and she found herself losing over Sh100,000.

“I really wanted the supplements for my aging parents back in the village as well as my other relatives. The company simply pocketed our hard-earned money, minting millions before anyone could find out that it was a scam,” Sharon said.

For Kennedy Mugo, he became a target of the deceptive scheme when he received an invitation to what he believed was a county-sponsored forum to discuss health issues and the economic empowerment of the youth.

The invitation seemed official, and he thought it originated from the government.

“We are pleased to inform you that you have been selected to attend the inter-county health and financial empowerment meeting on February 10 [to discuss] where to get capital to start a business, enrolling in the housing programme and health services by the national government, quality education including travelling overseas for further studies and trips and vacations worldwide,” said the SMS.

However, upon attending the meeting, the resident of Gilgil said that, to his surprise, there were no officials from the county or national government and the purported event was a trick orchestrated by the same Nakuru-based company.

Instead of genuine discussions on health and financial empowerment, the company focused on aggressively promoting its health supplement packages.

“We tried asking questions but we were denied the opportunity to speak. They, instead, asked us to select our representatives who would be taken through the packages and later explain them to us in greater detail," he said.

"They are taking advantage of the high unemployment rate in the country to con people. Some people even paid to attend the meeting. People should be keen and know that there is nothing for free," Mugo added.

Nakuru County Police Commander Samuel Ndanyi asked those who’ve fallen prey to the fraudsters to report the cases for investigations to start.

“We will be able to launch investigations once the victims report the matter to us," he said

The Central Bank of Kenya has in the past issued warnings about the proliferation of pyramid schemes across the country.