The search for fame in today’s world can be an unending dark pit, especially when one is desperate and ready to invest all their savings into a course that continuously fails to gain the much desired traction and recognition.
This is the story of 22-year-old Collins Kipleting Serem alias Reng Star, a benga artist based in the remote Kamplemur village in Sugoi, who on December 18 was arrested by detectives trailing the person behind a fake Facebook account that was impersonating Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua.
Collins was nabbed by detectives in civilian clothes at Kipleting market whiling away his time on a game of pool with his friends.
They had traced his phone to the village in Sugoi, Uasin Gishu County and established that he is a local artist.
The detectives were seeking to establish the man’s motive in impersonating the DP and put a stop to the fund drive he was carrying out on the page “for hungry Kenyans”.
They had also devised a cover story that would lure him to their vehicle after which they would escort him to Nairobi for questioning.
The cover story was that they needed him to perform at a nearby establishment and he needed to accompany them to negotiate the deal ahead of the performance, a trick he fell for line, hook and sinker.
But before they could go far, Collins overheard one of the officer’s conversations on phone, sensed that he was under arrest and attempted to flee, which he managed albeit for a few hours.
“He managed to open the door and started screaming for help alarming the villagers who then charged against the officers with stones.
"This is a small village, we know each other and some local musicians have been going missing in mysterious circumstances, we could not let him get whisked away just like that!” a local who witnessed the chaos told Nation.Africa.
What saved the detectives was the intervention by officers from the local police station and Mr Abraham Samoei, the operations manager at Joyful Women Organisation, who convinced the locals that Collins had committed a crime and he needed to be questioned for it.
It was then that he was bungled up into the detectives’ car and driven to Nairobi for questioning.
In his statement, Collins told detectives that his motive from the beginning was to gain followers by posing as the DP but later on change the page’s name to his so that the followers can access his music.
After clearing Form Four in 2017, Collins did not manage to proceed to college. Instead, in 2019 he secured a TVET scholarship offered by the county government that earned him skills in Motor Vehicle Technology.
Done with the course and back home without a job, he requested his father to get a loan and buy him a motorbike that he could use as a boda boda.
His plan was to assist the father to repay the loan then save some more funds for his music production.
He, therefore, moved to Kericho, made enough money to clear the loan then returned home early last year to kick off his music career using proceeds from the bodaboda business.
His music, mainly love songs with lessons caught up in his village and gained a few views online that earned him a performance or two at home but the songs never quite sold as he envisioned and that is when the idea to create a page to sell his art came about.
This was around August when Presidential campaigns had reached fever pitch.
In his confession to detectives, Collins said that’s when the thought of impersonating the DP hit him, he said he did not know that Mr Rigathi had any social media presence and that found him an easy bait to use to earn followers then convert the page to his stage name “Reng Star”.
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After starting off by wishing people a good day, he later realised that there was an official page for the DP, began pasting its images to his followers and the page numbers swelled to now 14,000.
A week before the DP launched the National Steering Committee on Drought Response and implored salaried citizens to set aside a percentage of their salaries towards hunger relief, Collins replicated the message in his own wording on his page.
“Good evening Kenyans should we gather something for our fellow Kenyans suffering from drought? Let us come together and do a public harambee for them it will assist them for some time be blessed so much as we support them,” reads the post published on November 17.
The DP launched the committee on November 25 and three days later announced the setup hunger drive pay bill number 880990 to allow Kenyans to donate cash to drought victims.
A day after this, Collins posted his personal Standard Chartered Bank account number on the fake page and a pay bill number for unsuspecting Kenyans to donate towards the “same” course.
“Pay bill_329329. Account number _0100434508800. Let us help them, God will bless you,” the post stated.
Interestingly, Kenyans had mixed reactions to the post. While a good number piled it with insults, a few including a man who confessed to having fallen for the scam, deposited Sh30,000 to the pay bill.
He realised he had been conned when the DCI shared the news about Collin’s arrest on their social media page that fateful Sunday.
On his part, Collins told detectives that while he would have spent the money deposited by gullible Kenyans to grow his music, the only notification he received on his phone was informing him of a Sh6 bob deposit made on the same day he shared the account number.
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Bank records show that the account was opened in September at the Bank’s Eldoret branch and had been receiving deposits valued at around Sh100 or thereabout which would later he would later withdraw via mobile phone.
Collins however told detectives that he had stopped making personal deposits to the account when he posted the account’s details on the page on November 29.
About three days after the post, he told detectives that he realised he had drawn very negative reactions to the page and attempted in vain, to change its name to his stage name “Reng Star”.
At this time, the page had been flagged by fact-checkers as fake and he was starting to panic at the thought of losing the followers. Therefore, out of frustration, he resulted to Posting “Good day” messages.
Though he told detectives he regrets his actions, he confessed that he would have used the donations to build his music career.
He also confessed that the arrest had enabled him make his maiden trip to Nairobi city.
Since his arrest, Collins has been cooling his heels at the Central Police station’s cells awaiting his day in court on Wednesday, December 28.
Nation.Africa has learnt that he is already composing a song based on his experience which he hopes will warn the youth against such daring actions.
Cases of persons committing identity theft to commit fraud have become common across the world.
In June last year, a Pennsylvania man pretended to be former President Donald Trump and his family members to solicit for funds for a purported Trump reelection organization that did not exist.
The authorities said Joshua Hall instead used the funds raised-thousands of dollars to cater to his living expenses and charged him with identity theft and fraud.
Back at home, DCI detectives are probing close to 15 fake accounts attributed to the Deputy President’s wife Pastor Rigathi Gachagua some of which are being used to defraud innocent Kenyans.