Grace Nyamohanga

Kenya Prisons senior-sergeant Grace Nyamohanga.

| Courtesy

Senior prisons sergeant who ran Sh200m con racket on the run

What you need to know:

  • Sgt Grace Nyamohanga managed to command a criminal network from Lang’ata Women’s Prison.
  • Some 60 job-seeking victims paid between Sh300,000 and Sh400,000.

On normal days, Kenya Prisons senior-sergeant Grace Nyamohanga patrols the halls and alleyways of Lang’ata Women’s Prison with a dash of swagger. Tall and of a medium build, she has an aura of authority about her, the mute radiation of brawn made even more evident by the green warder fatigues and the beret on her head.

As a senior officer in the prisons ranks, Sgt Nyamohanga is tasked with rehabilitating the society’s most crooked and dangerous women, as Lang’ata Women’s is one of Kenya’s most heavily guarded prisons and is home to some of Kenya’s most dangerous convicts.

Sgt Nyamohanga’s story would have been one of those impressive, fairy tale tear-jerkers were it not for a rather disturbing revelation by the police this weekend. Detectives in Nairobi were last evening searching for the senior prison warder, accusing her of running a Sh200 million con scheme from right within the fortress that is Lang’ata Women’s Prison.

Sgt Nyamohanga, who is also known by the alias Nasra, is believed to have obtained, alongside others, the colossal amounts of money in the past 10 months from unsuspecting job-seekers with the pretext of offering them jobs. Should she be convicted, hers would go on record as one of the most-daring criminal enterprises in recent years.

How she managed to run a criminal syndicate from deep within the confines of one of the most guarded, most secure establishments in the country sounds like a plot from a crime-thriller novel. Most importantly, how a correctional officer became the mastermind of a gang or underworld operatives running a complex network would be material for a study on the complex web of Nairobi’s darkest secrets

The Lang’ata Women’s Prison is on any normal day a quiet place, just like most prisons across the country. Hidden from the prying eyes of the public by high walls, it is also under 24-hour sentry guard, making it an impenetrable edifice. 

Its gate – which is the only prominent feature at the facility as you walk in – is guarded day and night by at least three prison warders, who with the help of a senior officer, known as the in-charge, ensure secure entry and exit into the facility.

On any typical day, like yesterday when the Sunday Nation visited the institution, not much activity goes on here, especially on the outside of the premises, besides the occasional probing of questions by the warders, keen on knowing the intention of every visitor to the prisons.

Mafia-like organisation

It is almost like an isolated place, with little to no mention given to it on most days. And even if so, the news is usually that which involves prisoners either rioting, one of them reported dead, or participating in beauty contests and pageants, or even corporate social responsibility sponsored by corporates or individuals.

That was until yesterday, when detectives from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations said that they were in pursuit of Sgt Nyamohanga for leading a racketeering group that has been swindling unsuspecting Kenyans of millions of shillings every month. The full extend of the syndicates fortunes might never be known.

Detectives believe Sgt Nyamohanga was not acting alone and had agents across the city, and perhaps on social media, who would prey on their targets, con them of money by false pretense, and submit the loot to her. Some of those who worked closely with her were fellow junior warders, detectives said yesterday.

An officer at the institution, who spoke to the Sunday Nation in confidence since she is not allowed to comment on the matter, said the news had come as a surprise to some of them, who viewed Sgt Nyamohanga as a respectable supervisor and colleague.

Detectives believe Sgt Nyamohanga, who was last evening still on the run, operated a mafia-like organisation that promised job seekers employment in lucrative government parastatals and security agencies, including the Kenya Defence Forces, the National Intelligence Service and the National Police Service.

It was not clear last evening whether any of the other warders involved in the racked had been arrested, but detectives said they had concrete evidence that a number of them were the errand boys and girls of Sgt Nyamohanga.

“One such warder collected Sh19 million while another, who is a driver, collected over Sh5.7 million. Victims have since been filing reports detailing how they fell for the tricksters machinations,” the DCI said in a statement yesterday.

A senior officer to whom the Sunday Nation was referred at the institution declined to comment on the matter and instead referred us to the Kenya Prisons headquarters.

Unsuspecting victims

At least three victims had by yesterday recorded statements with the police over the matter. One such victim is said to be a woman from Kiambu County, who was swindled over Sh800,000 after she was promised that her three children would be offered job opportunities at the National Hospital Insurance Fund, the Nairobi Metropolitan Services and the Kenya Ports Authority.

“She was also offered appointment letters inviting her respective children to the said institutions to take up positions that had allegedly fallen vacant,” the DCI said. “However, she became jittery on the authenticity of the appointments when the suspect called twice to postpone the reporting dates, citing Covid-19 restrictions. This prompted her to report the matter to detectives.”

The detectives said that in January, the suspects had, in a well-coordinated and orchestrated plot, recruited over 60 job-seekers who were offered forged letters of appointment inviting them to join the Kenya Airports Authority.

Every one of the 60 victims paid between Sh300,000 and Sh400,000, meaning the syndicate pocketed at least Sh18 million from this illicit project. On the appointment day, the unsuspecting victims were driven to the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, ostensibly to familiarise themselves with what would be their new work environment. They were also addressed by a suspect who posed as the human resource manager at the airport.

“Later, they were driven to a high-end facility overlooking the Nairobi National Park on Mombasa Road, where they were treated to a sumptuous meal. Afterwards, they were asked to go home and report on March 18, 2021. That was last time the victims heard from the phoney thugs,” said the DCI.

Detectives also believe Sgt Nyamohanga and her network of criminals operated a multi-million-shilling money-laundering syndicate after they found fake US dollar bills amounting to Sh2.4 million inside her house at the Industrial Area GK Prison Staff Quarters.

As investigations continue into the matter, and as Sgt Nyamohanga remains on the run, the Directorate of Criminal Investigations yesterday asked Kenyans who submitted their academic documents, birth certificates, identification cards and other documents to the fraudsters “to present themselves at the DCI headquarters, Serious Crimes Unit and file their reports”.

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