How Kenyan builders are losing millions of shillings to conmen

Building materials Kenya
Conmen are exploiting Kenyan’s desire to save money. PHOTO/FILE
Hundreds of Kenyans are losing millions of shillings to a syndicate of conmen passing themselves as suppliers of building materials, mainly stones, bricks, and sand.

Investigations by the Kenya Homes Guide have exposed how the con artists, through carefully planned tricks, are exploiting Kenyan’s desire to save money when building homes.

John Maina’s story is just one of the many that are being narrated by individuals who have fallen into the traps of fraudulent material sellers.

Mr Maina, a high school teacher, had gone to the famous Ndarugo Quarry in Juja to buy stones for his first home construction project in Kiambu. At the entrance of the quarry, he was approached by a young man who promised to sell him stones at a discount since he was a son of the quarry owner.

Although Mr Maina was at first sceptical of the suggestion, he later agreed to the deal after the young man introduced him to a friendly old man whom he kept referring as ‘dad’.

The elderly man assured Mr Maina that his ‘last-born son’ was very knowledgeable on quarry matters and would sell him high quality stones for Sh16 a piece instead of Sh22 since he would not go through a broker.

The young man led Mr Maina to a spot where workers operated machines cutting stones into desired sizes and shapes. These were exactly the kind of stones that he was looking for.

Having agreed on the quantity, the two headed to the office to complete the transaction. However, just before they got into the office, a middle-aged man (who was reportedly the accountant) hurriedly walked towards them and instructed the young man to look after the office since he was rushing to Juja town to attend to an emergency.

“The young man requested the ‘accountant’ to first receive my payment and issue me with a receipt. I gave him Sh39,000 and he issued me with a stamped receipt,” Mr Maina said.

Confident that the deal was sealed, the two went back to the quarry to collect the stones. The young man asked Mr Maina to go and wait for him at the quarry since he wanted to go and pick the lorry that would transport the material from the parking patch.

After waiting for two hours, Mr Maina decided to go and check with the office to see what might have gone wrong. That was the time it dawned on him that he had been conned.

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Another builder, Wangacha Mbuthia, also fell into the trap of conmen while buying sand for his project. He bought sand at a quarry in a transparent deal but later learnt that the transporters offloaded part of his material on the way, then dug up the remaining sand in the truck to make it appear full.

This according to Stephen Nderi is a common form of thievery of the material.

“There is also a gang of brokers who use modified trucks such that the quantity of sand delivered to your site is way less than what you have paid for,” he said, adding that newcomers are usually the target for cons.

Mr Nderi advises prospective buyers to engage experienced transporters and only pay after the material has been delivered and offloaded on site.

“Let the supplier provide a sample of material he will deliver and you pay him once he has delivered the agreed amount and quality of the material. This will cost you just a little bit more, but it is worth it,” he said.

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