Suspect arrested in car-

2009-07-07 00:00

PIETERMARITZBURG magistrate Divesh Mootheram has refused to grant bail to an alleged fraudster suspected of involvement in a countrywide car theft scam involving the use of fake identification documents and cloned credit cards.

It is alleged by the state that Joseph Letwaba (47) used the false documentation and credit cards to hire cars from various rental companies and then “disappeared” with the vehicles.

Letwaba, who told police he is from Mamelodi East near Pretoria, was arrested in a police “sting” operation at the Royal Hotel last month.

The trap was set when he allegedly approached a car rental company at Oribi Airport to hire a BMW and arranged for its delivery to the hotel.

Rental companies had earlier circulated an e-mail warning staff to be on the look-out for a fraudster using a Malawian identity, Dickens Mmavule, the name allegedly used by Letwaba.

Mmavule is wanted in connection with four cases of fraud and theft of hired vehicles in Gauteng, including a Mercedes 180, a Toyota Corolla, a Polo Playa and a Toyota Yaris.

Investigating officer Inspector Andrew Brown said he still doesn’t know Letwaba’s real name or his address as the address he was given in Mamelodi East is incorrect.

He said the false name, Dickens Mmavule, appeared on two cloned overseas bank credit cards, a false Malawian passport and a false Malawian driver’s licence which he had found in Letwaba’s possession when he was arrested.

Letwaba also allegedly possessed a cellphone and seven SIM cards.

Brown said Letwaba admitted to being a South African citizen and gave police this name when he made a statement.

When the name and his fingerprints were fed into the police system it allegedly emerged that Letwaba had been charged in three similar cases in Gauteng between 2001 and 2003, and that he had skipped bail in all of them. In one case he allegedly tried to take a stolen hired BMW across the border to Botswana, in another he was charged for possession of a stolen Green VW Jetta, and in the third instance he was charged for theft of a Toyota double-cab, which he took for a “test” drive and never returned.

Last year he pleaded guilty to a similar charge and was given an 18-month suspended sentence.

Brown said investigations are continuing into Letwaba’s activities. So far, he added, he has established that about eight different identity documents have been issued to Letwaba since 1995 by Home Affairs in this country.

He was also issued with at least six permanent and temporary passports.

Brown is currently investigating “a lot of border movement” involving the various documents, and tracking all the transactions that have been carried out in South Africa with the cloned credit cards found in Letwaba’s possession.

Brown said the cloned credit cards were originally issued by banks in the United States and in Switzerland.

Letwaba, who testified that he is a taxi owner, urged the court to grant him bail for “three weeks” to make arrangements to support his wife and children and said he is willing to return to jail. He suffers from heart problems, asthma and diabetes.

ingrido@witness.co.za

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