Bogus police scam local man

2008-05-14 00:00

WHEN a Pietermaritzburg businessman found a bundle of bank notes on a city pavement, he could hardly believe his luck, but it turned out that he was the victim of an elaborate scam, and ended up being out of pocket instead.

He has warned other people not to fall into the same trap.

Bogus police officers recently robbed Johannes Boy Makhoba, who runs a building construction company, of R5 000 in cash in broad daylight in the city centre. He admitted that he became a victim because he was greedy for money.

“If you come across a bundle of bank notes lying on the pavement, just walk away, pretend you didn’t see it and never look back. If you pick it up you will regret it,” Makhoba said.

Makhoba’s hard lesson came on April 25. He had just walked out of the FNB branch on Church Street between Retief and Masukwane streets at about 11 am. In his wallet he had R5 000, R4 000 of which he had just withdrawn to contribute to the funeral of a family member.

As Makhoba was walking down Church Street towards his vehicle, he saw a bundle of R50 notes in a plastic bank bag. Suddenly, a youth came running up behind him and picked the bundle up. The teenager boasted to Makhoba about his lucky find.

“I demanded that he give me the money because I saw it first. But the youth, who was about 16 years old, just said we should divide it among ourselves. He recommended that we walk to Alice Driving School [at the corner of Masukwane Street and Manning Road], where it was safer to divide it,” said Makhoba.

As the two sat down under a tree behind the driving school to count the money, a Nissan sedan pulled up. One of the two occupants alighted. He was smartly dressed in a black, long-sleeved shirt, black tie and sleeveless jersey. They introduced themselves as private police.

Makhoba said the “police” told them they had seen him and the youth on CCTV cameras pick up the money. They said they were charging Makhoba and the young man for breaking a 1976 act, which, they said, states that if a person finds something on the street he must declare it at a police station.

Both Makhoba and the young man were forced into the vehicle. The vehicle drove to the Hayfields area.

“After taking the bundle of money, the men forced us to hand over to them whatever money we had in our pockets. They said they needed to check that the money I had indeed belonged to me and was not part of the bundle found in the street.

The young man took out R3 000 and this was put into a brown envelope, which was handed to him. As soon I showed them the R5 000 I had, the other man took it and put it in a similar envelope and closed it. They said I must put the envelope into my pocket and not touch it.

“In Hayfields they dropped me off in Kay Street and ordered me to wait for them, and said they were taking the bundle to its owner.

“As soon as I alighted, they sped away. Everything happened so fast, I didn’t even have a chance to take down the number plate. I opened the envelope only to find a bundle of brown paper instead of my money. A resident saw me crying and called the police. I had withdrawn the money to contribute to my uncle’s funeral, which I was going to attend in Newcastle the following day.”

Police confirmed that the case was reported.

The Witness understands that there have been similar scams in the same area, and the victims were targeted immediately after having withdrawn cash from the same bank.

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