Police bust cyber crime syndicate targeting Kenyan athletes

Iten

A monument in Iten in Elgeyo Marakwet County. Police in Iten have busted a cyber crime syndicate said to be behind hacking of social media accounts of athletics managers used to defraud unsuspecting Kenyans, particularly athletes training in the region.

Photo credit: Jared Nyataya | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Cheromei, in his police statement, said that many parody accounts were created by the fraudsters.
  • And now, the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) in Elgeyo Marakwet County is calling on members of the public who might have been recently defrauded in the region in this manner, to visit their Iten office and record statements.

Police in Iten have busted a cyber crime syndicate said to be behind the hacking of social media accounts of athletics managers to defraud unsuspecting Kenyans, particularly athletes training in the region.

And now, the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) in Elgeyo Marakwet County is calling on members of the public, who might have been recently defrauded in the region in this manner, to visit their Iten office and record statements.

The DCI encouraged athletes to come forward after the notorious cyber-criminal gang was busted defrauding unsuspecting members of the public by issuing fake invites to work and run in the United States.

Elgeyo Marakwet County Criminal Investigating Officer (CCIO), Alfred Majimbo, in a statement on Wednesday said they have compelling reasons to believe there are hundreds of members of the public who were defrauded by the gang that has been plying their illegal trade in Elgeyo Marakwet and Uasin Gishu counties.

"In November 2021, we received a complaint from an athletics manager based in United States identified as David Cheromei that his Facebook page had been hacked, and the details used in opening other fake accounts which have been used to defraud Kenyans majority being athletes,” said the CCIO.

“The gang under the leadership of Dennis Kipkurui, who is a Computer Science graduate from Laikipia University, registered fake Facebook and WhatsApp accounts in the name of Mr Cheromei - under Impact Athletics International, LCC 191 and began inviting athletes using fake invites on behalf of the organisation. Other gang members arrested are Maurice Kiprop and Brain Kipchirchir,” DCI said.

The CCIO noted the gang had set an operation base at a rented house at Hawaii Estate, Uasin Gishu where they were arrested. They hail from Uasin Gishu and Nandi counties.

The detectives explained that the gang would then use the fake accounts to send friend requests to athletes, enticing them with US travel offers.

“The gang had also contacted the fugitive Ethiopian athlete being sought for the killing of Kenyan-born Bahraini runner Damaris Muthee. Eskinder Hailemariam was asked to pay Sh230,000 for visa and travel arrangements which was to be paid through Equity and Co-operative Bank, which was a fake account,” Majimbo disclosed.

The gang is said to have approached the fugitive a few days before he allegedly killed Ms Muthee.

Majimbo said the gang was issuing letters at a fee of between Sh15,000 to Sh40,000, bearing the organisation's logo and pictures downloaded from the genuine account.

“Within a period of three months they had defrauded unsuspecting Kenyans of over Sh800,000, mainly athletes,and the money was deposited in various accounts registered using stolen identity cards. They had registered at least 40 lines in names of different people.”

“At least seven victims have come forward and we need more information about the gang. There have been a lot of issues affecting the athletes, some have ended tragically and we are determined to address the crimes in athletics,” he said.

The suspects face a range of charges including making false documents, obtaining money by false pretense, attempting to commit a felony among others.

“It is unfortunate some Kenyans have been banned from stepping in the US after they were deported for falling victim to the gang's scheme. We need to end such actions by arresting all rogue people within the society.”

Cheromei, in his police statement, said that many parody accounts were created by the fraudsters.

“I have flagged several accounts under my name to the administration of Facebook on numerous occasions. All those defrauded please go record your statements. My organisation does not charge any money for any invite to the US,” he said.

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