In November 2008, the dreams of a Kenyan family that had sent its two daughters to the United States for further studies came crashing after Lorreta Wavinya and Lilian Nzongi were arrested for masterminding a scheme that defrauded the American government of more than $15 million (Sh1.5 billion).
The two sisters were charged together with 15 others. In total, they claimed more than 540 fraudulent tax returns using identities of more than 500 victims and occasioned losses to at least 27 states.
Most of this money ended up in banks in Kenya and was immediately withdrawn at ATMs in Nairobi after being bounced to accounts across the world. It was a complex international crime that forced the US to update its identity theft laws.
But for over 12 years, Mr Edwin Sila Nyumu walked free in Kenya as his nine suspected co-conspirators in the fraud scheme served their sentences in American federal prisons. This is despite being listed in 2013 among Interpol’s most wanted people. On Tuesday, his run came to an end.
Mr Nyumu was arrested in Athi River, Machakos County, by Kenyan detectives seconded to Interpol. He was presented at a Nairobi court yesterday where Interpol sought to extradite him but he claimed his charges in the US have been dropped.
Police, however, said they received information from Interpol that some Kenyans were wanted in the USA for alleged fraud offences. An affidavit filed in court by Corporal Gerald Kamwaro said Nairobi Interpol had contacted the US National Central Bureau Interpol to forward extradition documents against Mr Nyumu.
Additionally, the police officer wanted the court to allow them detain the suspect for 10 days, pending extradition proceedings.
Mr Kamwaro argued that the suspect was staying in the US and fled to Kenya after committing some offences. “This matter is of public interest since it touches on fraud against another government,” he said.
If extradited, Mr Nyumu will be flown to Kansas where he will be charged with, among other counts, identity theft and conspiring to steal from the Internal Revenue Service. If found guilty he could be jailed for 65 years.
Ms Lorreta Wavinya is currently serving a 14-year sentence after she opted for plea bargain and admitted culpability. Her sister, Lilian Nzongi, completed her five-year sentence in 2014. She also plea-bargained.
For taking part in Ms Wavinya’s scheme and opting to plea bargain, Karingithi Gitonga was sentenced to 21 months in federal prison without parole while Moses Ndubai was sentenced to three years and five months.
Michael Anderson was sentenced to one year and two months. Vincent Ogega also pleaded guilty and was sentenced to one year while Aaron Mutavi, 30, was ordered to pay $36,650.
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