What you need to know:
- Family thought the thieves were concerned relatives or belonged to a funeral arrangement group.
- The mistake the family made was to indicate in the obituaries that Mr Ngata was a director of his companies, said Mr Mwaura.
It has emerged that the conmen who stole money from dead Nyandarua businessman Amos Ngata’s bank accounts participated in his burial arrangements.
The conmen accompanied the family and friends to the mortuary and were openly raising funds, selling the deceased’s portraits.
The businessman’s brother Mwaura Ngata said the fraudsters also participated in selling and pinning the portraits on the mourners and told them the proceeds would go to paying medical bills at Nairobi Hospital.
“We did not suspect anything. We thought they were relatives or belonged to a funeral group. They were very friendly,” Mr Mwaura said.
Dead man's mobile phone
The fraudsters would later use the details they had gathered to swap the dead man’s mobile phone, which they used to withdraw Sh2.8 million from his accounts, and send it to a mobile phone number belonging to Rev Peter Kariuki Kania, who died in July.
Rev Kariuki and Mr Ngata hailed from Kiambu but Mr Ngata settled at Ndunyu Njeru Market in Nyandarua in the 1970s where he was posted as a teacher.
The Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) said on Monday that a week had hardly elapsed after Mr Ngata was buried on December 2 when one of his sons discovered that his father’s phone line, which he used for mobile money transactions, had suddenly gone dead.
When he reported the matter to the mobile service provider and the line swiftly reactivated, the family discovered that more than Sh2.8 million had been stolen through mobile apps operated by NCBA, Equity and Co-op banks.
The DCI said the 0722720930 line had been reactivated on another phone.
Even more puzzling was the fact that the phone number – 0716 546633 – which was used to clean Mr Ngata’s accounts was the registered line of Rev Kariuki before his death.
It also emerged that the scammers stole Sh500,000 from Rev Kariuki’s bank account without the knowledge of his widow and children.
Mr Mwaura said a few days after his brother’s death, a strange number would call Mr Ngata’s mobile phone, which was in the possession of his son Mbuthi Ngata, but would go silent soon after.
“We suspect this is the time they swapped the sim cards,” Mr Mwaura said.
They got suspicious on the Monday after the funeral on Saturday when Mr Mbuthi received an SMS alert from Co-op Bank showing an attempted withdrawal of Sh600,000.
“We called the bank, which was equally shocked that the transaction had not originated from us. We reported the incident to Engineer DCI officers who seemed not interested. We then moved to the mobile provider and Nairobi DCI headquarters,” Mr Mwaura said.
The mistake the family made was to indicate in the obituaries that Mr Ngata was a director of his companies, said Mr Mwaura.
“It is through Ngata’s phone that detectives made a breakthrough in the major SIM-swap fraud through which the dead and the living have lost millions of shillings,” DCI boss George Kinoti said.
“The syndicate mostly targets wealthy individuals – especially those who have died and their families placed their death announcements in newspapers. They also target phone lines of the elderly and those who have travelled abroad.”