- Mary Mekoa* was scammed off about R600 000 in 2021 by a man she met at a Pretoria mall.
- Within weeks, he had already asked her to pawn her car and then staged a hijacking to get her to keep giving him money.
- He drives a Range Rover Vogue and still loiters in malls and when Mary saw him at one three weeks ago, and he winked at her.
- She is devastated and in debt while he lives a lavish life and potentially scams other women.
Mary Mekoa* regrets not taking heed of a gut feeling she had when she met a man who has turned her life upside down and left her in debt.
She met her swindler in March 2021 at a mall in Pretoria. Mary says she was hesitant about communicating with him because he wasn't her kind of guy, the 51-year-old Mary tells W24.
But his persistence won her over, and after two weeks of her not picking up his phone calls, she did. Now she regrets ever giving him any attention and living though the next two months that changed her life for the worst.
She endured stories and drama only movie directors would obsess over. Her anxiety and stress levels have peaked since meeting him, she tells us.
Her life was put on hold and to date, she doesn't know how this man could get her to do all she did for him.
"Four weeks into getting to know each other, he was already giving me stories. First, he said he needed to release his safe containing money at the cargo and didn't know where to keep it because he was staying at a lodge, and they would give him a hard time. So he asked that I keep it for him because he wanted to buy a property with the money," she says.
The man, who introduced himself as Steven, said he is originally from Congo. He pretended to be new in the country and told her he sold his family business back home. His family was fighting his mother, so they wanted to kill him; hence he came to South Africa.
That is how Mary got entangled. She started feeling sorry for him. The stories started pouring in, and it was one scene after another.
He said he paid R240 000 for the storage fee of the cargo and was R88 000 short. He even brought an invoice to 'prove' that his story was legit.
"He was so miserable and was restless, I went to the bank and got him the money thinking I'd be getting it back the following day when the safe had arrived," Mary says.
But the stories were only intensifying - the safe never arrived.
"He said the safe was tampered with and stained the money. And he needed to buy a product from the Reserve Bank to clean the money," she says.
The stories kept coming.
When they met, he drove a Range Rover Vogue but concocted a story saying he sold it for one million to get the product to clean the money. He told Mary he was R500 000 short.
He said he could borrow some money from the bank, but he needed R240 000.
"I went to apply for loans to get the product to clean the money," she says. "Eventually, he said something happened, and the product was not stored correctly and it wouldn't work. The product apparently needed to be returned to the lab, so he needed more money.
"At this time, it had been two months, but so much money was going out, and there was no breakthrough."
This is when he suggested that Mary should pawn my car. She tried to but no one was offering much for it, so she didn't go ahead.
"He then suggested I ask my friends for help. He said he would pay the interest. One friend agreed and we got R80k, my other friend borrowed me R20k, then I gave it to him," Mary says.
"On that day, he staged his own hijacking and kidnapping. While driving, there were cars with blue lights out of nowhere, and they chose to stop him from all the cars on the road," Mary recalls.
"I drove off as I didn't want to be involved with the 'police' but I later realised he was clever as he chose a one-way road so that I couldn't make a U-turn. As a result, by the time I managed to drive back, within five minutes, they were gone with him."
After all the money she had already given him, he still kept asking for more, this time to get himself out of 'jail'.
"He called asking me to help him and give him R60 000 so he could bribe the police."
Mary borrowed money again. Unbelievable, but she did. "That was the end of him, gone with my money, I was the one calling him, and he kept on lying that he's still being held captive," she says.
Two weeks went by, and he was nowhere to be found. She consulted a private investigator who confirmed that she was swindled. "I was so devastated, I started shaking and became anxious and paranoid. My life changed," she adds.
Mary says her investigations found that police and several other people who posed as professionals were in on the scheme. She discovered that he lied about his identity and had been living in the country for years.
He is also married to a South African woman. They [the PI and Mary] were able to meet up with him, and he admitted to taking the money and promised to pay it back. On the day, Mary says he signed a contract and agreed to pay her R20 000 monthly.
"He just gave me R10 000 on the day, and he has never paid a cent since," Mary says.
She says she opened a criminal case, but nothing has happened as he was never arrested.
"He's been living in a posh estate for 10 years now, and he's a young boy who claimed to be older according to the fake passport," she adds.
Mary is in debt and will be paying up loans every month for the next five years.
She says when he kept telling her stories she was querying them but kept obliging and going along with everything he told her. It is only when she opened a criminal case that she realised that all the money transfers, withdrawals and loans were about R600 000.
"I would go into a bank to withdraw over R100 000 to keep giving him money. When I think about it now, I don't know how all of this happened to me," she says.
"It's so hard to live through this. My building project is stuck as I can't finish it before paying off the loans. It's not easy, but I'm taking each day as it comes. I am embarrassed, but it's life. There was a time I had suicidal thoughts, 2021 it was like I was losing my mind. But I had to try to be strong."
Mary says she is bold enough to share her story, as embarrassing as it is, because she doesn't want any other woman to go through what she went through.
"Had I heard or read about a scam like this, I would have known the second I met him. Now, when I meet someone, I am on high alert," Mary adds.
Not her real name*
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