(City lawyer Steve Ogolla. Photo courtesy)
A popular city lawyer Steve Ogolla who was apparently conned Ksh500,000 by a pseudo account operated by US based blogger Washington Osiro has ashamed Journalist Elvis Ondieki for protecting the aforementioned person. Washington Osiro is being accused of using pseudo account under the name “Dorcas Sarkozy” to con unsuspecting individuals.
This is what he had to say;
“Dear Elvis Ondieki,
I have read your article with shock and consternation. Shock because I believe a reputable Newspaper like the Sunday Nation cannot approve an article for publication in the format you presented.
I say this with the full knowledge that I advised that there is no such person as Dorcas Sarkozy, and you could not therefore purport to “speak to Dorcas Sarkozy” as to be able to quote her response in a national newspaper of great repute and rank.
I told you in very clear and unambiguous language the alleged Dorcas Sarkozy is not a person but a pseudo account operated by multiple people and supported by a female voice who lied to people that she was the one posting and engaging people on that account.
Evidence has now emerged that the Facebook account, Dorcas Sarkozy, is in fact a pseudo account, a fact not previously known, to me or the people the account conned.
As it is, one Washington Osiro, has publicly admitted to have had access to that account and indeed posted articles on that account which formed the basis for fraudulent and illegal activities. As it, in law, Washington is at best an accomplice on own admission, and at worst the fraudster extraordinaire.
I gave you all this information, which is in the public domain anyway, and advised you not to rush the story until the true identity of the female voice who makes phone calls as Dorcas Sarkozy has been positively identified. Of course she refused to identify herself because no fraudster does. The documents she shared online do not prove identity and it did not help to repeat the same. I advised you that if her identity is revealed, then she could be arrested and charged with online fraud.
Yet in a dramatic move you purported to field her responses to your questions, making your readers believe that the woman you spoke to is the Dorcas Sarkozy, when you know this to be incorrect and untrue.
Having read your piece, I have lingering questions: How do you quote a person whose identity is unknown? What if the person you spoke to purporting to be Dorcas Sarkozy is Ann Kamau, for instance?
Is this not a casual approach to professional assignment that exposes you as lacking in seriousness?
At the time of running the story, your peice could have at least achieved one objective: To unravel the true identity of the woman voice who claims to be Dorcas Sarkozy. The remaining concerns on fraud would have to be resolved in the coming days, subject to further investigations.
Did your piece achieve this? No. One is left wondering what other public benefit did you deepen by recycling what is already out there, and confusing the facts by quoting the female voice as Dorcas Sarkozy, in a highly reputable national newspaper?
How did you sidestep basic ethical and professional responsibility required of a journalist working for a highly reputable media house?
On the issue of fraud, this is a matter that cannot be concluded without speaking to victims, not third parties. The reason I declined to go on record is because I told you that the question of the identity of the woman voice needed to be resolved first. As long as a victim cannot positively and definitively identify the alleged fraudster, no case can crystallize. I told you so in very clear language.
Who will the DPP be prosecuting? You claim to have been conned by a woman, where’s the woman? Can you identify her? These are preliminary questions that must be answered in the affirmative before the evidence of money can be tested. And as stated above, a conniving fraudster, dealing with unsuspecting victims, already pre-empted the possibility of arrest and would not say, “send money to my account.”
This raises a further legal problem: even if one could show transfer of money to a pay bill or till number, how do you prove that this money was ultimately applied to the benefit of the fraudster? This is an evidentiary issue, that makes this case more complex than it appears.
Further, some of these monies were picked by riders, who can no longer be traced. This is hardly surprising. When people are dating, nobody says, “I have 100K but don’t send a rider to pick it. Send me your account number.” Movement of money in the context of social or family relationships is purely based on trust. Nobody says, “I will need to remember this transaction. So let me require paper trail.”
I gave you all these legal analysis to buttress the point that it was too early to report conclusively on the scandal, unless you were limiting yourself to exposing the true identity of the female voice- which you did not.
As I’ve said, by common sense alone, a conniving fraudster using a pseudo account to lure victims would never ask the victim to transfer the money to a registered account, for the simple reason that it makes it easy to track. So to pose/publish questions where the fraudster is asking for evidence of bank transfer, without caring to qualify such questions is another low in terms of professional journalism.
In short, I am left wondering how your article has advanced a public good? Put differently, since the story had trended online for a week, what additional flavour has your piece introduced?
This is an honest question, that you must answer if you are to defend your reputation and seriousness a journalist.
It is not enough to say, there was pressure to publish the story. No one takes responsibility other than the person who writes the story. For example, a good piece wins the writer accolades, not the Newspaper. In the same manner, a poorly researched and rushed piece that leaves more questions than answers, in all honesty, exposes the journalist as incompetent and incapable of executing tasks assigned to him, because opportunity to stand firm and say, “I will not publish until and after I have closed all gaps,” always exist and when a journalist stands firm, the bosses recognize and respect that.
In my respectful view, you have failed the test of PROFESSIONAL ACCOUNTABILITY and badly exposed the brand of the Sunday Nation, a reputable newspaper with a long standing reputation and tradition of competent reporting.
I am aggrieved but I intend no legal action. So relax. But I am entitled to speak to your editors to know why after everything I told you and asked you to defer publication until all loose ends are closed ,was ignored?
I may not be a journalist, but I can tell when a piece has been rushed. I don’t think this is something the Sunday Nation, which has previously run an inspirational piece on me, and its sister TV, THE NTV which I support as an external legal analyst, approves the approach you have taken.
That they published it, is prima facie approval, but it could be that you did not disclose to them everything and the various complex angles I gave you which in totality would have led to postponement of the piece pending closure of loose ends in this whole scandal.” Steve Ogolla