ID fraud gang bust in Port Shepstone

2011-07-05 00:00

THE departments of Home Affairs, Health and Education are soft targets where fraud syndicates easily access victims’ identity documents and salary slips.

This was one of the alarming revelations to come out of a Port Shepstone court following the sentencing of an identity document fraudster, Nozipho Cynthia Mhlongo (36).

Mhlongo pleaded guilty to one charge of fraud and one charge of corruption before the Port Shepstone magistrate and was handed a six-year jail sentence last week.

He is believed to be part of a syndicate operating in KwaZulu-Natal whose modus operandi involves obtaining bank loans and clothing and furniture store credit through the illegal use of unsuspecting victims’ personal information.

Police caught Mhlongo in Port Shepstone with an accomplice, Thulisile Balunga (34), who is from Hammersdale, after she had tried to offer a bank consultant a R200 bribe in exchange for a statement of a client’s bank account.

Mhlongo implicated Balunga, who had been keeping watch outside the bank, after her bold attempt to entice the consultant failed.

She was arrested with a number of false identity books, a wig and credit and delivery notes from a furniture store to the value of R50 000.

Lieutenant-Colonel Zandra Wiid said the investigation established that Mhlongo had used the identity document of a teacher on the North Coast whose photograph she had replaced with her own picture, to obtain R50 000 credit at a furniture store in Pinetown.

The furniture she had ordered had been delivered to a sidewalk in Umlazi before being moved to another location.

Wiid said some of the delivered items were found in Mhlongo’s possession.

It is believed that Mhlongo had a helper at the furniture store, a Nelisiwe Mhlongo, who is also part of the syndicate.

The Witness was unable to establish from the police whether the two women were related.

It is understood that as a thank-you for colluding with Mhlongo to approve the fraudulent application at the store the woman received a Blackberry phone, which she later sold.

Presenting his case, prosecutor Reuben Judnarain said the syndicate targets departments such as Home Affairs, Health and Education to obtain employees’ salary slips and identity documents.

Wiid could not comment further, saying investigations are continuing

However, police are expecting to make more arrests, she added.

Wiid confirmed that some of the victims, who are employees of various provincial department , have not received salary advice for a couple of months.

She pointed out that the fraudsters rely on “contact people” in banks and furniture stores in order to perpetrate their scams.

Balunga faces eight charges of fraud.

Upon her arrest she had five cell-phones and various SIM cards, all believed to have been obtained fraudulently.

She carried false IDs, as well as a bank statement and a credit print-out from a clothing store not belonging to her.

She is believed to have obtained R10 000 credit using a false ID, of which R2 000 has already been spent at a clothing store in Port Shepstone.

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