What’s in a name? That has remained a rhetorical question since Shakespearean times, but in William Ruto, a number of people have found a way to make quick cash from others.
From fictitious tenders purportedly issued by the Deputy President's office, non-existent trips to meet the DP, to promises of cash, Mr Ruto’s name continues to be a pivot for rip-offs.
Alarmed by the frequency of cases where gullible members of the public have been conned in his name, the DP has asked victims to lodge complaints with the police.
“The DP is a public servant and access to him is absolutely free. In fact, it is every Kenyan’s right to see the DP. There have been cases of people allegedly asking for money to (enable them) to see him. That is criminal.
Any member of the public who has been conned should report to the police or the DP’s office,” ‘Mr Ruto’s press secretary Emmanuel Talam told the Saturday Nation on Friday.
Four incidents - two last month, one in October and another in August 2018 - are among the many cases of people using Mr Ruto’s name to con unsuspecting Kenyans. The DP is considered a generous man.
Earlier this week, cunning individuals collected at least Sh483,000 from Isiolo County residents with the promise of facilitating a meeting with Mr Ruto in Nairobi.
Each gave Sh2,300 - Sh1,100 for a Ruto-branded T-shirt and Sh1,200 for transport.
They had been told that after meeting the DP on Monday, each would be given a Sh10,000 allowance. The deal sounded irresistible to many.
The group was to meet at a Isiolo hotel on Sunday, December 29, to plan for the trip that would begin on Monday at 4am.
The meeting took place; they paid the money and were to receive T-shirts on Monday morning before the journey began. But it was not to be.
Those who paid found themselves stranded, cheated and demanding answers.
The crowd waited for more than six hours before accepting that they had been conned.
One of the victims, David Muthamia, told the Saturday Nation that they were to see the DP to discuss the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report and plan on how to campaign for his 2022 presidential bid.
One Peter Mwangi, a businessman who runs an electronics shop in Isiolo Town, allegedly coordinated the scam.
“He called and told me that one of my friends had presented my name for consideration. I could not resist an opportunity to meet the DP,” Mr Muthamia said.
Ms Joyce Mwari, who borrowed Sh2,300 from a friend to pay for the trip, said Mr Mwangi kept saying that vehicles were being fuelled, to blindfold them.
Police have launched investigations into the matter after the furious victims reported the matter at Isiolo Police Station.
Isiolo County Criminal Investigations Officer Raphael Wawire told the Saturday Nation on phone that they were tracking down the suspect, “whose current location is Nairobi.”
On Monday, detectives grilled a woman who had been tasked with collecting money on behalf of Mr Mwangi for hours but later released her.
Details have emerged that some of the conned residents had been added to a WhatsApp group named Youths na Ruto Isiolo, which had a membership of 150. A third had left the group by Tuesday evening.
It was reported that Mr Mwangi had targeted 250 people from Meru, Turkana, Borana, Samburu and Somali communities.
Contacted by the Saturday Nation, Mr Mwangi claimed that he had been contracted by a welfare group called Power to Mobilise Residents to register people from the county to meet Mr Ruto.
He said that the chairperson of the group went missing after receiving hundreds of thousands of shillings from people.
“The contributions were collected by one of the members and not me; we had even paid for buses,” Mr Mwangi said on phone. He denied claims that he had conned residents.
A few days earlier, Kisii Deputy Governor Joash Maangi was on the spot over claims that he pocketed part of Sh4 million that the DP gave to be distributed to leaders from the region who had travelled to his Sugoi home on December 17.
The MPs in the delegation were Joash Nyamoko (North Mugirango), Shadrack Mose (Kitutu Masaba), Vincent Kemosi (West Mugirango) and Alpha Miruka (Bomachoge Chache).
“This is not the first time he has done it. I wish the DP gave us the money directly,” said an MP who sought anonymity.
But Mr Maangi dismissed the claims as baseless. “I did not do that. That is false,” he said.
Each of the 13 constituencies in Kisii and Nyamira counties was represented by over 100 people selected by Mr Ruto’s pointmen in the region.
At least 10 school buses were hired at a cost of more than Sh150,000 to ferry the leaders, mostly youth.
Sources say that each of the participants was paid Sh2,600 after enjoying food and soft drinks.
It emerged last October that the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission was investigating Fafi MP Abdikarim Osman Mohamed for the loss of more than Sh12 million that Mr Ruto helped raise towards the construction of a madrassa.
Investigations began after a Garissa-based lobby complained to the commission that the money raised in 2018 could not be traced.
Mr Ruto had contributed Sh2 million while the local community gave Sh4 million.
National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale gave Sh1.2 million, Garissa Governor Ali Korane Sh500,000 and the more than 15 MPs who attended the function gave Sh200,000 each.
The lobby claimed in a letter that the money was handed over to Mr Mohamed, who had since been engaging them in “cat-and-mouse games”.
Mr Mohamed did not respond to the allegations but Sheikh Mohamed Abdi of Nanighi madrassa said the MP formed a committee which decided that the money should be used to pay teachers’ salaries instead of its original purpose.
“We agreed that the money be diverted to paying teachers as there is an acute shortage of manpower,” he said.
In another case, four men face charges of conspiracy to defraud the government of Sh180 million using a fake tender allegedly in the name of the Office of the Deputy President.
Allan Chesang, Teddy Awiti, Kevin Mutinda and Johan Ochieng are said to have offered a tender document for the supply of 2,800 laptops valued at Sh180 million.
On a different count, the four are said to have made a local purchase order document purporting it to be a genuine document signed by a procurement office in the DP’s office.
The four also face charges of obtaining goods by false pretence.
They allegedly obtained 2,800 laptops, property of Makindu Motors Limited, purporting that they had a genuine tender document from the DP’s office.
Reporting by Justus Wanga, Waweru Wairimu, Ruth Mbula and Elvis Ondieki