Pata potea: Beware of these licensed fraudsters in Nairobi

Pata Potea gamblers operating opposite St Peter Claver's Catholic Church in Nairobi. [Photo: James Mwangi]

They operate openly and with impunity. They brag that they have law enforcement officers’ protection and anybody who questions their illicit activities or come their way is assaulted.

These are the city’s licensed fraudsters with protection, largely from crooked Nairobi City County askaris.

One group is that of pata potea gambling fraudsters who operate at St Peter’s Claver termini, barely 50 metres from the county’s facility where they are protected by City Hall. Complaints of victims, some dragged and robbed when they refuse to participate in the gambling ruse, have been ignored.

Central OCPD Robinson Thuku says there have been complaints, but every time they move to make arrests, they are shown licences issued by the county’s Betting Control and Licensing Board.

This, Thuku says, has made it hard to tame the fraud in the streets. The gang also operate with security of hired youth to deal with aggressive victims.

John Ng’ethe Mwaura, fraudster in police custody after he assulted a police officer. [Photo: Kenya police]

At the city centre, another team of fraudsters operate with abandon with askaris’ protection. They claim to sell legit coupons to redeem prizes but it turns out to be a hoax.

These fraudsters hoodwink Nairobians that they stand a chance to win phones and laptops. After scratching the coupons, they are told to part with some cash for the gifts they have ‘won,’ which are often counterfeit phones. Refusing to can lead to physical attacks.

They operate in the early mornings along Moi Avenue under protection of hawk-eyed county askaris and with crowd of over 20 agents and goons. Police have singled out two cars they use, a Toyota Townance with registration number KBY 546M and a station wagon, with registration number KBL 247X.

Police say the group is led by one John Ng’ethe Mwaura, who claims he is the overseer of the Christ Love International Ministry. He has been arrested and charged for assaulting a police officer and damaging property.

A few weeks ago, the police on their Facebook page, warned wananchi about the group, which they said has shifted to using a different vehicle. And though one of Mwaura’s accomplice, identified as Peter Gitau Kibe, was arrested, the tricksters are still active in the city centre.

“Before Mwaura’s arrest earlier this year, the team was using a van. But information in our possession indicates that they are using a different car now. We wish to caution everyone to be vigilant and provide us with information on these con men’s location in case they are sighted anywhere,” the police warned in a statement.

Mohamed Ahmed, a victim, said he complained about the gang at Central and Pangani police stations as well at Internal Affairs Unit, but is yet to get any assistance.

When we asked the Nairobi City County Director of Communication why City Hall has licensed criminals, and if they were aware their employees were receiving bribes from these fraudsters, he promised they would take a action against the gang.