A woman from Georgia was tracked down and arrested for stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from a third-party payment system that is used by the University of Connecticut.
Muthini Nzuki, 39, of Kennesaw, GA, was found to have siphoned more than $773,000 from an online payment system after she gained access to a federal tax ID and pretended to be a Dell employee.
"This was an elaborate financial scheme between this defendant and perhaps some other co-conspirators," Tolland State's Attorney Mathew Gedansky said.
The investigation began in June when UConn reported the fraud. UConn police said it all happened over a six-week period this summer with transactions ranging from a couple hundred to over a one hundred thousand dollars. In the end, police said more than $700,000 was missing.
The university is not on the hook to repay the money and there was no financial loss to the state or the school. The issue is between the payment system, PaymentWorks, and Dell.
After Dell said whoever took the money was not one of its employees, investigators were able to track down where the money went and identified the owner of the bank account as Nzuki.
Authorities said Nzuki has a Kenyan passport in her name and a valid GA driver's license under the name Jane M. Kiio. Officials said she was a naturalized citizen out of Atlanta.
However, both names appeared in transactions from April and May between bank accounts tied to Nzuki and UConn, according to the warrant.
"She fled the United States for Kenya via France at the end of May, at the end of this scheme," Gedansky said.
They notified Immigration Customs Enforcement, which added Nzuki to the Treasury Enforcement Communication System. Under that system, investigators said they would be notified when Nzuki returned to the country.
Agents received a TECS notification that Nzuki returned to Georgia from Kenya on Aug. 1.
"She didn't flee to Kenya she went on a scheduled time to visit family and friends there," John O'Brien, who is the attorney for Nzuki, said.
Nzuki was charged with first-degree computer crime and first-degree larceny and her bond was initially set at $1 million, so she wouldn't leave the country again.
"She's as much of a victim as the University of Connecticut is and the state of Connecticut is by being duped," O'Brien said.
O'Brien said his client is married with two children, 3 years old and six years old. He added that she wants to cooperate with investigators.
"She's explained to me that some other countrymen from Kenya contacted her to use her bank account claiming that they had no other access to bank accounts and were going to be involved in processing some proceeds from an inheritance from a relative in Connecticut," O'Brien said.
O'Brien said she didn't create any aliases and wasn't trying to hide anything.
"I don't believe she was monitoring her daily banking transactions," O'Brien said.
O'Brien said Nzuki fully believed it to be legitimate.
"She's not a very sophisticated lady, but certainly here she has been caught up in something that is not her intention to steal nearly a $1 million from the state of Connecticut," O'Brien said.
Nzuki, who was extradited to Connecticut, faced a judge in Rockville Superior Court on Friday. She was given a $500,000 bond and told if she bonds out, she will have to surrender her passport. Her next court appearance is Dec. 1.
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