High flyer's big lie

2014-05-14 00:00

SHE stole a company identity, she fronted a business using her “uneducated” cousin, she lied about her qualifications, she never paid anyone and now she is on the run.

Lerlin Goss pretended to be a high flying property investment manager with an extensive portfolio with purchase opportunities from the coast to Pietermaritzburg.

But the Pietermaritzburg-based Goss Real Estate agency was — according to former employees and clients — “a scam” that duped service providers and left a string of bad debts throughout the provincial capital estimated to exceed half a million rand.

And an investigation by The Witness has revealed that Goss, who was involved in an equally questionable business in Johannesburg, is alleged to be hiding in Durban with her husband Ashley, although he has vehemently denied any knowledge of her whereabouts. He claims their marriage is “on the rocks”.

Goss Real Estate, which was not registered with the Estate Agency Affairs Board, initially tried to appear credible by trading as Rawsons Corporation, which is the name it had registered with Companies and Intellectual Property Commission; and which is similar to the nationally recognised Rawson Property Group.

Despite evidence that the Gosses were running a business on a lie, a politically connected Johannesburg businessman, Bobby Molefe, who claims to have access to €200-million in bonds, said he was still considering investing in the failed property venture.

He said he would bail Lerlin and her husband Ashley “out of trouble” as he considered them “his students” and said Lerlin was “good with investments”.

But it was the fronting of single mother-of-six Regina Khumalo, Lerlin’s cousin, who was employed as a receptionist at the estate agency, that started to lift the veil on the lie.

“I started getting suspicious as I was excluded from everything. Lerlin said I shouldn’t ask questions as she had all these qualifications,” she said.

“But it was when I received a call that I owed R66 000 for installation of airconditioning at both the office and Lerlin’s home and received documents that said I owned the business that I consulted a lawyer.

“I realised I was the sole director of the company, which had never paid me a salary, and the business had a bank account in which Lerlin had control. I have seen a power of attorney letter I allegedly signed but it is not my signature,” said Khumalo.

She said both Ashley and Lerlin “pretended” to be politically connected within the ANC.

“They had no struggle credentials. The entire business was a lie. I will be laying both criminal and civil charges once I have all the documents necessary,” said Khumalo.

Meanwhile, former employees and service providers, who were paid by cheques that bounced and “fraudulent” electronic fund transfers that never cleared, have already laid criminal and civil charges against Lerlin.

A former employee, Shireen Bunsee, who relocated from Pretoria to work at the agency, and who was interviewed by Lerlin at the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) in March, is seeking compensation.

“I thought if she has meetings at the JSE she must be a serious businesswoman. I am now taking her to the CCMA, the Labour Court and I have opened a case of fraud at the SAPS,” she said.

Owner of the Pietermaritzburg restaurant Rockafellas, Duncan Paul, said Goss Real Estate paid a deposit for a function via a Standard Bank EFT.

“But Standard Bank have since confirmed that it is fraudulent. The police were initially pathetic in helping us. They wouldn’t allow us to open a case. Through our lawyers we have since opened a criminal case. She is an absolute scam artist,” said Paul.

Even the company’s CEO, Shay-Lee Janneker — who rose to the position from bodyguard over a period of three months — claims not to have been paid.

“She is a scam artist. Everyone is looking for her but no one has a clue where she may be. The rumour is she is in Durban. We were taken for a ride. The business closed down three weeks ago.”

Rawson Property Group KZN regional sales manager Daphne Rhodes said they had started receiving Goss’s bills.

“We had people phoning us telling us to collect our branding. They thought the orders were placed by us. We confronted Goss through our lawyers and asked them to change their name, which they did. They had even lifted a photo from one of our ad campaigns to put on their branding,” said Rhodes.

Lerlin is believed to have fled her home in Glenwood, Pietermaritzburg on May 1 according to neighbours and has not been seen since. She could not be reached for comment.

The lie:

LERLIN Goss copied and pasted Goss Real Estate’s entire profile from a U.S.-based agency, changing the locations and currency but keeping even the building descriptions in place.

Her “Company Profile/Investment Proposal” — handed out at investor functions was an almost verbatim copy from U.S.-property website Citylife Property Management, which boasts to have offices in New York and Philadelphia.

She changed the location, dates and currency but copied the qualifications of the American company’s managing director, claiming she had an “MBA in real estate and finance from the University of Unisa” and a doctorate in “Business management and finance”.

Under “Examples of properties being pursued” the U.S.-property agency lists properties in Philadelphia, Far Rockaway, New York and Brooklyn, New York.

Goss kept all the building specs, changing only their locations to Pietermaritzburg, Ballito and “Amazintoti”.

Her husband, Ashley Goss, who was credited with having a electrical engineering degree from the University of Zululand, has since confirmed he has no such degree and said a Facebook page — set up in his name — where he is listed as having a “BCom from the University of Pretoria” is also a lie.

What is known of Lerlin is that she studied at Eastwood Secondary and is a registered student at Unisa.

The trail of deceit:

• The Witness: Over R100 000 was booked for advertising after successfully having obtained a clear credit check. It is still outstanding.

• Duzi Airconditioning: R66 000. The company eventually removed the aircons after non-payment.

• Profile Property: Signed a lease agreement for 373 Jabu Ndlovu Street, PMB. All verification documents checked out. After the EFT deposit didn’t appear the company kicked them out just 10 days after they moved in. The property is back on the market for R14 000 per month excluding VAT.

• Rockafellas: Goss Real Estate ran up a R13 000 buffet meal bill for their launch event held in March. The restaurant is pursuing a criminal and civil case to recoup funds.

• Prosyscom: R180 000 in IT equipment and installation including phones. All items were removed within days of installation after payment via EFT did not reflect.

• The staff: No salaries were paid for three months.

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