Puzzle of Kenyan family that stole Ksh2bn from taxpayers in US

US Tax return form
US Tax return form. [Photo:]

Cybercrime is just another thing that Kenyans hear often but it is this criminal enterprise that saw a Kenyan family siphon about Ksh2 billion from taxpayers in the US.

The Nyumu family from Makueni has been on Interpol’s list of wanted fugitives back in the US. For the last 12 years, Edwin Sila Nyumu whose family members are currently serving jail terms in the US for tax fraud and identity theft has been hiding in Mlolongo.

According to the Nation, Sila managed to escape FBI’s dragnet back in the US and flew back to Kenya where he kept a low profile for more than a decade. Only money has been changing hands as he tried to buy his freedom and it worked.

He is no longer a wanted man by the US government, thanks to the US federal crimes statute of limitations.

But how did he manage to steal such a colossal amount of money in a country with intricate systems sniffing out tax frauds at the first attempt?

Well, here is the intriguing bit. Sila hailed from a family that had a history of running an intricate cybercrime web in the US and channelling these proceeds back to Kenya where they heavily invested in the real estate sector.

The illicit cybercrime trade was first transacted by Sila’s uncle, Paul Kilungya Nyumu, the mastermind of the whole thing in 2003. He was to later rope in his nieces, Loretta Wavinya and Lilian Nzongi who travelled to the US on a student visa in 2005. The two are sisters to Sila who was also introduced to the business by his uncle.

Their trade in the web involved identity theft from unsuspecting victims, the majority of them being the elderly allegedly seeking federal tax refunds running into millions of dollars.

Wavinya and Nzongi quickly learnt the trade and would get into the fishing expedition for identities. It even got easier for Wavinya who started working at Kansas City as a tax preparer and radiology technician. By her profession, it was easy to obtain this information.

The two sisters nailed the art and would submit fake tax returns and generate fake tax refunds which court papers indicate could amount to Ksh2.7 billion.

Nyumu recruited Sila and another Kenyan woman, Eva Mwangi and they helped in banking and withdrawal of money in Nairobi via the ATM. Court records show that between 2004 and 2005, they had filed 500 false tax refunds with over 350 fake identities.

When he was arrested and arraigned in court over the theft, Nyumu pleaded to be released on bail and which was set at Ksh2 million and ordered to surrender his travel documents. He was also placed on house arrest but never appeared for the second hearing.

He escaped back to Kenya never to be seen or heard of until his death sometime back.

It is after his death that his nieces and nephew expanded their business and continued defrauding the US government millions of dollars in fake tax refund claims.

But as fate would have it, they were found guilty of the crimes and Wavinya was jailed in 2009 for 14 years for wire fraud and identity theft while Nzongi got five years and 10 months for the same. She has already served her sentence but no one knows her whereabouts since her release.

Wavinya, on the other hand, is looking at deportation once she completes her sentence in 2023.

Sila was lucky to escape the dragnet and silently came back to Kenya in the bustling Mlolongo where he has lived for years with no arrest despite Interpol and FBI’s warrants for him.