Love scam rip-off

An off-duty Mountain Rise police officer tracked down and arrested a man believed to be part of a syndicate of smooth-talking men who target mostly government-employed women and steal their life’s savings.

In April this year, The Witness reported that at least three Pietermaritzburg women had fallen prey to men who stole their life’s savings before disappearing without a trace, leaving the women destitute.

The women who have been targeted have all been over the age of 30 and were working for the state when they met these charming young men.

Although three cases were opened at the start of the year, Pietermaritzburg police spokesperson Sergeant Mthokozisi Ngobese said in April that one of the women who had opened a case committed suicide in February after a sweet-talking man disappeared with almost R600 000 of her money.

However, Mountain Rise detective Sergeant Dollar Malinga made a break in the case after a woman in her 50s visited the station on Monday evening and said she had been scammed out of over R300 000 as well as her pension fund by a man she had loved, and who she thought loved her. The woman, who would not be named, had recently retired from her post as a teacher after she met a young man from Uganda.

She told The Witness in a telephonic interview that the man had charmed her and she had fallen in love with him.

“He told me to retire. He took my retirement money of around R325 000 from me and other smaller amounts of money while we were together.”

The modus operandi used by the men is that they lure the women into a relationship, before persuading them to quit their jobs and withdraw their entire life savings. Once they have the money they cut contact with the women, changing their numbers and even moving houses.

The woman who spoke to The Witness on Tuesday said the man who conned her had used a similar method.

She said she had been told by the man to withdraw her money and give it to him to keep in one of the rooms in his house where it would double in value. He said she should not enter the room where the money was, but on Monday afternoon she did just that and instead of finding her money, she found stacks of counterfeit bills.

She said she is being hounded by people she now owes money to, but cannot pay.

Mountain Rise police spokesperson Captain Gay Ebrahim said on Tuesday that Malinga arrested two men on Monday evening.

Both are illegal immigrants, and one of them, aged 26, was charged for scamming the woman out of money.

“A vehicle that was allegedly bought with the ‘scammed’ money was seized from the man.”

Malinga had chased the two men, who were believed to be driving a Ford Ranger, from Panorama Gardens to Prilla Mills where he arrested them.

“Investigations are ongoing to ascertain if they are linked to any other cases,” said Ebrahim.

It is believed that the man arrested could be part of a syndicate operating with other men, scamming women out of money operating from Durban, to Pietermaritzburg and all the way to Johannesburg.

The men are expected to appear in the Pietermaritzburg court on Thursday.