Celebrity PI’s vanishing act

2014-07-22 00:00

PRIVATE investigator Brad Nathanson is accused of fleecing hundreds of thousands of rand from his clients — and may face commercial prosecution.

The Witness can reveal that three cases of theft under false pretences have been opened against the celebrity private eye and more could follow.

The cases centre on allegedly bloated deposits paid to Nathanson, who is then accused of failing to probe the crimes.

Nathanson has built a significant public persona on the back of high-profile investigations, using social media to elevate his status. His ventures culminated in a security business which saw him retreat from the limelight.

He has also had several brushes with the law, and last year was arrested after pointing a gun at his ex-wife’s partner after a brawl.

Now private investigator Sean Peirce is leading the charge against Nathanson, who this week hit back at his accusors. He said he was the victim of a vendetta (see full statement in sidebar).

Peirce, approached by some of Nathanson’s irked ex-clients, compiled a detailed docket against Nathanson.

“They wanted me to help them get their money back. One woman from Vryheid paid him R57 000 to do an arson investigation at a dairy farm. He was paid the deposit and he was never seen again. This is now a criminal case.

“She says that he never took her calls and evaded her constantly. Her daughter posed as another client and she confronted him and he ran away from them,” Pierce said.

Another man is alleged to have approached Nathanson after a robbery and also claims to have been fleeced by the investigator.

“He wanted Brad to recover an expensive watch. My client paid him R30 000 with no record of any investigation,” he added.

“There are lots more cases just like these. This case borders on civil and criminal. Once we can show a pattern, the dockets will be centralised at the commercial crimes unit and then a decision will be taken on prosecution,” said Peirce. “He gives private investigators a bad name.

“I am not saying that every case in solvable, and some do take months to finalise. You need to be able to show your client what work you did. I think he got too busy and his head got too big,” Peirce said.

Police spokesperson Captain Thulani Zwane confirmed that cases had been opened.

“Cases of theft are being investigated. It is alleged that the suspect was supposed to conduct an investigation and money was paid but no investigation was conducted,” he said.

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‘I will not take this lying down’

VRYHEID dairy farmer Ingla Hellberg says she was duped by Nathanson, after she paid him R57 000 to investigate a case of arson.

She insists that he was a no-show even after money was sent to him and claims the private investigator refuses to refund her.

The case he was asked to probe involved two sheds on her farm which had been set alight, destroying large amounts of hay for the dairy cattle.

“I heard about Brad last year and I know other people who used his services and they were very happy. When we met he told us that Vryheid was not too far away for him to take our case and that he needed a deposit of R50 000 to get started.”

“We paid the deposit and he never came to the farm,” she claimed.

She said that when she managed to contact Nathanson he had agreed to pay her back.

“First he said he was going to pay, then he said he had a team in Vryheid doing the investigation and refused.”

Playing cat and mouse with clients

BRAD Nathanson hit back at his accusers, saying that charges levelled against him were empty and the product of a professional vendetta.

“Anybody can open a case. I have done nothing criminal and I’m sure the NPA will agree. If these people who are making these allegations have a problem with my fees or my efforts versus fees, they need to deal with me civilly. I have not misrepresented myself nor have I ever taken money from a client and done nothing.

“This should be seen for what it is; a witch-hunt and an attempt by Sean Peirce to be rid of me in this industry. This is nothing more than spite on his part. This is the nature of our industry.

“We don’t always get the results that the clients want but hours are worked and fees accumulated. I am a professional. Where have you heard of an attorney being criminally charged for theft by false pretences when he loses a case for his client?” he questioned.

“Please know that I will not take this lying down as I’m tired of the likes of Sean Peirce and those who seek to distract me from my calling. I have done too much for too many for too long to be handled in this manner,” he said.

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