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Con Artistry



“You’re under arrest. Everything you say can and will be used against

you in the court of law.” The lady police spoke to no one in particular.

Have a sit, a cozy chair, for banter …

For the record, I’m not lazy, just intoxication of dough made the heart want more than the hands can work for. The kleptomaniac gene isn’t in me, just the character associated with it.

Money is almost everything so it’s said. My name is Mponda Mali or Double M as my acquaintances prefer to call me.  I used to work hard to earn a living. Life was good, Edenic, and as I swore when growing up not to be lazy in repaying debts, that was so; less or no debts, sweet sleeps. I used to aspire to be a somebody in life that when in gatherings my name is among the honorables and not wageni wengineo[1] though my work of construction seemed to slow down the progress. The manual work was laborious with peanuts as payment.

“Hey Double M, vipi?” Mtu Chuma inquired of my well-being. He was hunting a place to feast, free food. He then asked of my wallet’s situation, I wore a bold visage and told him how I put my teeth to work with ugali matumbo. If only he knew how emaciated it was, may be my yawning sold me out. It was there and then that he showed me the money he had, wow; all those miss browns[2], three of them in fact! So he wasn’t hunting for a place to feast, free food, my bad. He then, after the enticement, told me of how easy it was making that dough. The art of swindlers…


I was introduced to the game from the beginner’s level. MC (Mtu Chuma) was a graduate at this game. He always told us he was a hawker, indeed he was.

Women were our prime targets, with their lives in what they carried: phones, money and what-have-yous. We would pose as commuters at a bus terminal and as the normal pushing and shoving went on, our hand did the working. Palms with grip they were.

At times we posed as the conductors or drivers of those matatus, only to cause woe to our customers.

Business was 50-50, at times you get at times you don’t and at other times you are caught, your life at the mercy of your captors.

Pata Potea

The risk in pick pocketing led to the emergence of pata potea.

This involved use of cards, three of them, one with a picture or something underneath. The cards would be rotated and you as the customer would be told to place any amount of money on the card that you believed had the picture underneath and if you picked the right card, then we would double your money if you picked the wrong card (either of the two with no picture), then the money became ours. Few had their money doubled because they were our guys who would masquerade as other customers so as to attract the unsuspected, naïve lot to swindle.

‘You’ve Won… Yippee!!!’

The council Askaris made that business unbearable and with no hardship allowance, we moved on.

“PATA PATA NA USHENZI PROMOTION” You are our lucky winner of Ksh.100, 000 from Upuzi Company. For more information call +2547********

We started sending messages to people randomly, informing them of their winnings in promotions they never participated. You may wonder how we made money that way, wonder no more. We also told the winners to send us money to facilitate the sending of their prizes. The clever would ignore those messages but the majority would send the dough via mobile money transfer and after a good number send us the money, we discarded the SIM cards, buy another one and the swindle cycle began.

We would also do so with messages informing someone else of some job offer and act as if it was sent mistakenly to entice the person who coincidentally was job-hunting to call us to enquire if they too can get a chance to apply for that job. Afterwards, we asked them for some money so as we can talk to the recruiters to help them get the job. Woe to those who complied!

‘Remember Me?’

Do you know of Ying Yang, the light dark, the enlightened primitive? Yeah, people became clever but did they?

We started to monitor people’s movement.

Then one day we would pretend just how we knew them. Where they lived, worked, studied e.t.c. then offer to at least buy them sugar or rather give them from a friend’s wholesaler just around town. We would then tour the town then take the person to the other side of town. From there we tell the person how sorry we were for not being able to be of help because that friend was not around to give out the sugar. We would then tell the person not to pass a certain road back home because of safety then tell them to take a safer road, only to fall on our trap. The road we say is safer is infested with thugs, our friends, who will mug the poor fella. Pity.

‘It Was Meant For My Sick Mother’

Back to text messaging.  We took advantage mobile money transfer to make a killing, and it proved a worth course.

XYZ123 Confirmed. You have received Ksh2, 400 from MWIZI MKARIMU +254711234245 on 31/2/11 at 8:59 AM. New M-PESA balance is Ksh.4, 500

(The SMS)

Here, we would send messages in similitude to those received when one is sent money via M2T (mobile money transfer). We waited… then called the person informing them that the money they’ve received was sent to them by mistake and it was meant for my sick mother for hospital bill and the sought. If the person was the kind that had a lot of money on their mobile bank account and made the mistake of not verifying if indeed they had received the alleged money, then, you’ve guessed right, they would be swindled big time!

Hello, this is MWIZI MKARIMU. I have accidentally sent you Ksh2, 400 which was meant to be sent to my Mum who is very sick in hospital. Please have the fear of the almighty God in you and return at least half the money. She is very very sick and desperately needs it. Please send to this number ASAP!

(The Phone Call)

(The SMS & Phone call illustrations courtesy: Savvy Kenya)


This profession made me paranoid because you don’t know who you’re about to swindle: council Askari, police officer, naïve fellow from up-country or your neighbor.

Want more, protégée? Visit me in my cell one day at Straw-Built Castle Maximum Prison then we’ll talk more, I’m sure the judge won’t pardon me as this is the fifth time he’s hosting me in her courtroom. You will fare well my student as what a man can do, a woman does it better, but be careful, mobile number registration was meant partly to curb our menace.

That’s it… or almost, the swindler metamorphosis.

[1] Among other guests

[2] Thousand note

  1. October 10, 2011 at 9:38 am

    This is a classical masterpiece article Odhiambo!

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