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How Kenyan based in New York was conned Sh16 million in land scam

A court has been told how a real estate agent defrauded a foreign-based auditor over Sh16 million through the purchase of a non-existent parcel of land in an upmarket city suburb.

Chief inspector Benjamin Chelanga, attached to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) headquarters took Milimani chief magistrate Susan Shitubi through several bank statements which included account opening documents showing that a New York-based auditor lost his money to a local real estate agent namely Stephen Njoroge Mbugua, who operated dollar accounts in two city banks.

In his evidence, Chelang’a told the court the accused, a real estate agent, lied to the complainant (auditor) Joseph Gitau that he was in a position to purchase his land from Karen, a high-end suburb in Nairobi County.

The court heard that soon after Mbugua received the money for the purchase of the land he called the auditor and informed him he had contracted chickenpox (a popular skin ailment).

The DCI officer also took the court through bank statements showing how money was deposited and withdrawn to pay the accused person by the complainant.

The complainant, a resident in the UK through his lawyer Robert Asembo, told the court they communicated using emails which were also presented before the court by the witness.

The magistrate was also taken through Whatsapp messages exchanged between Mbugua and Gitau, whose discussion centred on the purchase of the city land.

Mr Gitau pleaded with the court to dispense justice as “it is well over four years since he paid for the land which never existed”.

The accused has denied defrauding Gitau Sh16 million while pretending he would sell to him half an acre of land in the upmarket Karen, near Hillcrest School.

In his testimony, Mr Gitau explained how he wired the money into the accused’s account held at Equity Bank, Karen Branch on October 1, 2017.”

“Soon after I transferred the money through my New York Bank I called Mbugua to confirm whether he had received the same in his dollar account, at the Equity Bank, Karen Branch,” Gitau said.
Ms Shitubi heard Mbugua confirmed receipt of the money after three days as he had switched off his phone, and reportedly flew to the Philippines for specialised treatment after allegedly contracting chickenpox.

The magistrate heard that in mid-2017, Gitau travelled from New York to Nairobi to be shown by the accused the upmarket property which he had bought for him.

In the advert read out to the magistrate, Mbugua alleged there were “half-acre plots lined for sale at Karen Nairobi.”

Insp Chelang’a produced a sale agreement between Gitau and the accused over the sale of the said Karen property.

The hearing continues on May 2, 2024.

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