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Kenyan, 59, who defrauded Americans to spend 11 years in jail

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Paul Maucha was sentenced by a US court to serve 135 months in prison and fined $2.1 million (Sh271.1 million).

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A Kenyan man who left the country to work in the United States 36 years ago will spend part of his sunset years in prison after he was found guilty of fraud-related charges.

Paul Maucha, 59, was sentenced by a US court to serve 135 months in prison and fined $2.1 million (Sh271.1 million).

The sentence was passed on June 11 by US District Court Judge Carl J Nichols, handing Maucha 11 years and three month’s prison term.

The Kenyan-born businessman had been charged with ‘perpetrating an advance fee and investment scheme’.

This is a form of a financial scam where victims are tricked into paying certain sums of money to a company under the pretense that they would later receive multi-million loans or other benefits.

Information from the US Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigations state that on top of the jail term, Maucha will also serve three years of supervised release and he is to pay a fine of $200,000 (Sh25.8 million), a special assessment of $400 (Sh51,600), and restitution and forfeiture amounting to $1,901,252 (Sh245.3 million).

Court documents seen by show that on April 27, 2021, he was indicted by a grand jury with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, three counts of wire fraud and two counts of engaging in monetary transactions in criminally derived property. He was charged alongside his co-suspect Melisa Shapiro.

The court was convinced that the two made misrepresentations to their targeted victims about a shell company they controlled namely American Eagle Service Group Inc (AESG) to fraudulently induce payments from borrowers, lenders and investors.

Investigators informed the court that the victims were approached with promises of financing, surety bonds and investment opportunities through AESG and its related entities on condition that they pay an advance fee.

“AESG told victims falsely that the advance fees could be refunded if AESG did not fund the loan. As proven at trial, however, Maucha and his co-conspirator knew that AESG did not have the capital to make these loans at the time the lending agreements were executed, and refunds to victims could not be assured because Maucha and his co-conspirator were splitting the fees between themselves and spending them. There was no money left to be refunded,” the investigators stated.

Documents before the District Court of Columbia where the case was heard show that Maucha was arrested on May 12, 2021 and his nationality became a matter of concern later.

He had been released pending trial on conditions that he did not violate federal, state, or local law, surrendered any passport to the Pretrial Services Agency, did not obtain a passport or any other international travel document, and stayed within the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia area.

About two years later, the government petitioned the court to detain him, alleging that he violated the condition which required him not to commit a federal, state or local crime.

The government argued that Maucha commited a felony when he gave false information to a Pretrial Services officer who interviewed him by claiming that he was born in New York and was a US citizen.

However, the government’s petition was thrown out by the magistrate judge on June 2, 2023. Instead, it was ordered that he be released under amended conditions of home incarceration and location monitoring.

The government, unsatisfied with the order, successfully sought a review that led to the detention of Maucha pending trial.

It was during these particular hearings when it was established that Maucha moved to the US on a Temporary Worker Visa in July 1988, which was valid until April 1989.

He was identified as a Kenyan citizen named Paul Modi Maucha in a US Customs and Border Protection record, and has never left the country since then.

“The government proffered Social Security Administration records showing that Maucha obtained a Social Security number, in connection with his visa, that he has used consistently since.

“After examining Department of Homeland Security and State Department records, the government has uncovered no indication that Maucha has adjusted his immigration status or left the United States after his entry,” the court was informed.

It was further revealed that his citizenship was confirmed from a status update in his Facebook account about his mother’s identity as well as his marriage license which showed that his parents were born in Tanzania.

Commenting on the sentencing, Keri Farley, special agent in charge of FBI Atlanta, said it should serve as a warning that the agency will persistently investigate such crimes and ensure that they are fully prosecuted.

“Investment fraud scams can be difficult to investigate and prosecute due to the interstate and transnational nature of the criminal activity. But this sentence should serve as a warning that the FBI will persistently investigate these crimes and make sure they are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” said the Special Agent.

Special Agent Farley added that they will continue to pursue the collection of restitution for the victims.