House fraud cases spike, cops is­sue warn­ing

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Front Page - Nqo­bile Tshili

BU­L­AWAYO res­i­dents are los­ing hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars monthly to con­men in fraud­u­lent hous­ing deals, po­lice said yes­ter­day.

It is wor­ry­ing, the po­lice said, that res­i­dents were ex­pos­ing them­selves to fraudsters by do­ing se­ri­ous trans­ac­tions on the streets.

Ac­cord­ing to sta­tis­tics, 38 cases of fraud were recorded in the city with 20 of them in­volv­ing houses be­tween Au­gust and Septem­ber last year.

Dur­ing the same pe­riod this year, the fig­ures scaled down to 31 but cases in­volv­ing houses in­creased by six.

The ex­act mon­e­tary value for all the cases could not be im­me­di­ately es­tab­lished but it is be­lieved to be close to $1 mil­lion.

The po­lice said re­cently, a Bu­l­awayo wo­man lost over $50 000 in a botched house deal af­ter lawyers con­nived with three sus­pected fraudsters and pro­duced fake ti­tle deeds be­fore sell­ing her a non-ex­is­tent prop­erty.

They have also launched a man­hunt for a city man, Khum­bu­lani Bhebhe, who al­legedly misrepresented him­self as an es­tate agent be­fore de­fraud­ing a United King­dom-based Zim­bab­wean of over $20 000.

Act­ing Bu­l­awayo po­lice spokesper­son As­sis­tant In­spec­tor Garikai Chip­funde said po­lice were in­ves­ti­gat­ing the lawyers at the cen­tre of the scam that oc­curred last month.

He did not state the num­ber of lawyers in­volved or di­vulge their iden­ti­ties.

“Po­lice are in­ves­ti­gat­ing a case which in­volves some un­scrupu­lous le­gal prac­ti­tion­ers from Bu­l­awayo who con­nived with three fraudsters to man­u­fac­ture fake doc­u­ments to fa­cil­i­tate an il­le­gal process of de­fraud­ing a wo­man from Bu­l­awayo of about $50 500,” said Asst Insp Chip­funde.

“The wo­man was shown forged ti­tle deeds which she was made to be­lieve were up to scratch and de­posited the amount in ques­tion into the fraudsters’ ac­count.”

Asst Insp Chip­funde said Bhebhe took ad­van­tage of the UK-based wo­man and sold her a hous­ing stand in Hill­side sub­urb that does not ex­ist.

“The un­sus­pect­ing client was at­tracted by the deal and sent $16 000 us­ing de­tails given to her by Khum­bu­lani to pur­chase the stand. Af­ter re­ceiv­ing the money he told the same client to send an ad­di­tional $9 157 so that he could start build­ing a cot­tage. About $4 000 was sent us­ing the same Ex­press Link,” he said.

“The com­plainant only dis­cov­ered that she had been prej­u­diced of about $20 000 when she came back from the UK. She dis­cov­ered that the said stand did not be­long to Bhebhe or any agent. She also found that no cot­tage had been con­structed.”

Asst Insp Chip­funde said Bhebhe moved from his rented home af­ter learn­ing that his vic­tim had re­turned to Zim­babwe and has not been seen ever since.

He said last month 14 fraud cases were recorded in the city and eight of them in­volved hous­ing is­sues.

Asst Insp Chip­funde said it was wor­ry­ing that mem­bers of the pub­lic were do­ing busi­ness trans­ac­tions in­volv­ing the pur­chase of houses on the streets or with peo­ple they have no back­ground in­for­ma­tion about agents.

“The fraudsters swin­dle vic­tims through ad­ver­tise­ments of houses and stands in the print me­dia and no­tice boards which only con­tain their con­tact de­tails with­out of­fice ad­dresses. The un­sus­pect­ing clients re­spond to ad­verts by call­ing the po­ten­tial sell­ers who in turn ar­range par­ties to meet in the city cen­tre,” he said. Asst Insp Chip­funde said the fraudsters ask their tar­gets to de­posit money through banks but fail to de­liver the of­fered prop­er­ties.

“Po­lice there­fore are urg­ing mem­bers of the pub­lic to de­sist from buy­ing prop­er­ties with­out full in­for­ma­tion of the own­ers of the houses and stands.

“Mem­bers of the pub­lic are strongly en­cour­aged to ap­proach the rel­e­vant au­thor­i­ties and seek ver­i­fi­ca­tion from the city coun­cil hous­ing depart­ment, the de­ceased es­tate sec­tion at Tred­gold Mag­is­trate Court or at Mas­ter of High Court for clar­i­fi­ca­tion on any build­ing or prop­erty that they in­tend to buy,” said Asst Insp Chip­funde.-@nqot­shili

Khum­bu­lani Bhebhe

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