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Exclusive: How American vlogger was conned Sh1.7m in fake Maasai Mara hotel booking

Police in Nakuru County are investigating an incident where an American national lost Sh1.7 million to a Kenyan woman who pretended to be able to help her book a hotel ahead of her visit to the Maasai Mara in Narok County.

Authorities in Nakuru County are currently investigating a distressing case of an American citizen who fell victim to a Kenyan woman’s fraudulent scheme.

Ms Linda Panda was defrauded of Sh1.7 million when she trusted Ms Lucy Njeri Njoroge of Nakuru, who posed as a travel agent operating under the website “Splendor Holiday”.

The suspect had promised to handle Ms Panda’s hotel bookings for her upcoming visit to the famous Maasai Mara in Narok County.

Speaking exclusively to Nairobi News, Ms Panda, a travel vlogger, said they had an agreement with two of their friends to send the share of the money to Ms Njeri, who started taking them in circles as soon as she received the money.

“We were supposed to come to Kenya in May but it never happened because the person who received the money went mute and we could not reach her. It is very absurd that she went mute as soon as she received the money,” said Ms Panda.

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Ms Linda Panda has shed light on the circumstances that led her to transfer money to Ms Lucy Njeri Njoroge, although she did not know her personally.

She explained that two mutual friends named Karen and Tina Smith, who live in the United States, introduced her to another woman named Ms Glory Kimonge, who runs a travel company in Tanzania.

It was through this connection that Ms Panda first got involved with Ms Njeri. At first, things seemed promising, as Ms Njeri assured her that hotel bookings for her upcoming trip had already been made.

“Since Karen and Tina Smith are close friends here in the US, we were sure that everything would go well because she has travelled to several countries with the help of the Tanzanian guide. We never doubted that something bad would happen,” she said.

Ms Panda said when Ms Njeri went missing after receiving the money, they had no option but to contact Ms Glory, who is based in Tanzania, to help them reach her.

It was then that Ms Glory decided to travel to Kenya after several unsuccessful attempts to contact the suspect, where she lodged a report at Nakuru Police Station, which was recorded under Occurrence Book (OB) number 79/23/5/2023.

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Following the report, detectives from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) in Nakuru managed to arrest the suspect.

After her arrest, Ms Njeri told police that she had received the money but used it to pay her sister’s hospital bill and funeral expenses.

In a video in our possession, the suspect is seen in tears as she narrates how the family did not have the money at the time to deal with the situation, especially the hospital bill, and she became the family’s only salvation.

“Please forgive me, I used the money to pay my sister’s hospital bill and the rest I used as funeral expenses. It was a very difficult time for us as a family,” she said.

Ms Panda expresses her confusion and disappointment at Ms Njeri’s alleged misuse of funds, as the transaction was intended for official purposes.

Determined to seek justice, Ms Panda states she will to be in the country this week to ensure that appropriate charges are brought against the suspect.

“All we want is justice, we had plans to cross the whole of East Africa, but now things are not moving as we thought. I don’t even know who to trust and who not to trust,” said Ms Panda.

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