Intrigues of how Simple Homes covered its thieving ways can now be revealed.
Details show underpaid staff, who made millions of shilling very week for the company, were closely monitored through CCTV, and never met some of those purported to be their bosses. At the top management level were three directors, Argwings Kodhek, Lilian Wangui and her sister Hellen Wambui. At Centenary House where the company’s offices were, Susan Langat was in charge as the General Manager.
Lilian Wangui was initially operating from Centenary House but stopped in June last year. She, however, had CCTV cameras installed in the office to monitor the employees round the clock from a remote location.
The employees were grossly underpaid, threatened whenever they asked questions and like the buyers, they were selling non-existent houses to, they too worked on hope.
But for the employees, those who asked questions about the shady nature of the company’s business model were fired while those who brought in millions, were promised promotions which never came. Beryl Ogema was fired on January 16 after she asked questions about the houses the firm was purporting to sell. Her termination letter, however, says she “was sharing confidential information about the company with unauthorised persons.”
Susan Langat, who until the company closed was its general manager, talked to The Standard on Sunday from Eldoret where she relocated after the scam broke out. Langat told The Standard on Sunday that her life is in danger following threats from the company owners. Despite being the boss of a company making an average Sh10 million a week from our calculations and audio recordings of their meetings in our possession, she was earning a paltry Sh35,000 per month. She joined the company after she came for an activation at the Jubilee Christian Church some time in 2015.
“I immediately got their contacts because I loved the concept, I asked for a job. They accepted me and we started training,” she says.
Payments by clients were being made through Mpesa pay bill number 247247, cheques drawn in favour of Simple Homes Development Consortium Limited or as deposits in their Equity Bank account number 0550270262803 or NIC Bank account number 1003357418. To make a sale, sales representatives would approach a client with 3D videos of a project and suggest some of the available locations while setting up the deadline for setting up the units.
“Then we would advise you to deposit 5 per cent of the total amount (Sh7 million), which translates to Sh350,000. Many did not have the amount and we would then encourage them to pay 5 per cent of the quarter, which is Sh175,000 so that we could put their details on our register,” she says. Buyers were then required to make a 5 per cent payment of the total amount. If it is Sh7 million, that would translate to Sh350,000. All clients who asked questions about the existence of the houses being sold were told to write an email to a Walter Muigai and could only see the houses after paying up the Sh350,000. An audio recording of a meeting made a few weeks before Christmas last year in our possession between Kodhek disguised as Muigai with the sales team shows that the six representatives in the meeting had raked in Sh9.64 million within that week. “Doreen I see you are at Sh3.6 million while Joel is at Sh1.98 million. Susan you are at Sh1.88 million. Susan you were the best last month but this month you are the worst why?” asks ‘Muigai.’ “Naomi I see you are at Sh1.13 million, faith Sh569,000 and Kevin Sh476,000, is there a reason? he asks. Kevin responds: “I am supposed to meet more clients,” before he gets cut short. “Kevin am convinced you are in the wrong team. All you do is make promises. I have pressured many before you to quit. Do you want to be jobless on Christmas? Do you know how hard it is to be jobless in January? It means you won’t find work till April,” barks ‘Muigai.’
And in another virtual conference done in January this year, it appears sales had dropped down to Sh6 million a week while clients who had invested their money had started asking questions and ‘Muigai’ was not pleased. “If your customer has to go on site visit for you to sell then it means you are failing. You are not convincing enough,” he says in the meeting.
“The office is doing Sh6 million a week and you are asking for a show house. Are you sales people or not? Remember a good sales person has to be able to sell sand in the desert, salt in the sea and ice to an Eskimo,” he says.
Get out of office, police are coming, Simple Homes owner told staff
As with all fraudulent schemes, the masterminds behind Simple Homes knew one day they would close shop and the scam will blow up. They covered their tracks from the first day till they disappeared two weeks ago.
Victims of the scam are currently coming together with an aim of suing the owners of the company for damages.
“We are supposed to do our civil case on our own and the police pursue their criminal case on their own. We were expecting arrests this week but new complainants keep coming,” Haron Gatiji, the spokesman of the victims, says.
“It is not going to be impossible to arrest them. The criminal bit we leave to the police because we are citizens of this country and we pay taxes and no one should do the same thing they did to us to anyone,” he says.
While it remains to be seen whether the masterminds will be arrested, what is clear though is that they are perfect masters of deception, good at shaking off anyone who tried to investigate them.
Even after converting to Islam as a cover, Lilian Wangui alias Kui Rukwaro alias Lee Rukwaro and now Maryam Wangui stayed at the same one bedroom apartment she was living in before starting Simple Homes.
With hundreds of millions of shillings within her control, she still drove a silver coloured Nissan Note and lived in Ruaka with her elder sister Hellen Wambui. Apart from her, none of the other directors ever spoke to the media despite their vigorous marketing campaigns.
The names of directors on the company’s website are different from the names of directors listed at the Attorney General’s office. On the website, Joyce Manyasi, Kui Rukwaro, Dalida Shah and Ken Mutuma are listed as directors. But at the AG’s, Lilian Wangui, Hellen Wambui and The Online Commodity Exchange Company Limited are directors.
Further, as it turns out, their media contact person Dalidah Shah who was apparently the director of sales and marketing, may have been non-existent. The company started at The Mirage building on Chiromo Road where it stayed for the better part of 2016 before moving to Centenary House offices on October 1.
Initially, payments by clients were being deposited at NIC Bank, account number 1003357418 before being switched to their Equity Bank account number 0550270262803.
“When the clients asked why we had changed from NIC Bank to Equity, they said it is part of the company strategy and we were told to focus on our work,” a former employee said.
It was at this stage that the company’s owners started rolling out the exit strategy. First, Lilian Wangui stopped coming to the offices and employees were told she had moved to different offices. Meanwhile, she had converted to Islam and changed names. Then Argwings Kodhek ‘resigned’ from the company and new directors were apparently ‘hired’.
Wangui was replaced by a Rehema Wanjiku Ndungu while Kodhek was replaced by Walter Muigai. An officer at the Directorate of Criminal Investigations who is working on the case said Wanjiku was using an alias and they believe she is Wangui’s elder sister Wambui.
Muigai never showed his face to the employees for five months and was only accessible through a weekly conference with the sales team. It is suspected that Muigai was indeed Kodhek. Audio recordings of the Muigai and Kodhek sound identical but Kodhek has refused to respond to our queries.
To create further confusion, another layer of management was added and in came an Elijah Ngunjiri who, Lilian Wangui, the company’s general manager, claims was also using a fake name. When contacted yesterday, the man only known as Kingston, denied ever being part of the scam. “I did not work with them, I never did and I was never part of this nonsense,” he said.
“Like I stated, it is just a way of trying to divert the attention by making it look like I was part of it. I have been called by so many people telling me I was working for them,” he said. Within the last week of February, the company’s website was shut down, official emails for employees scrambled and the Facebook page deleted. They were then told to hand over their office phones. It was still a week before the company shut down but even then, the management was still lying to the employees about what was happening.
“We switched them off because clients are calling over the Facebook issue so the trainee is left wondering what to answer,” said Muigai in a message to an employee when asked why the phones were down.
Eventually when the chickens came home to roost on March 5, Muigai sent another message to the employees warning them they risked being arrested. “You need to stay online. I have been arrested with all the staff from Kiambu. Get out of the office and carry all the information you can. The police are on their way to you,” he said. By then Lilian Wangui, Argwings Kodhek and Hellen Wambui were long gone.
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