CON TRICKS FROM JAIL In­mates held over fraud scheme run in cells

Pretoria News Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - SHAIN GERMANER

YOU’VE JUST been sen­tenced to seven years for car­jack­ing and pos­ses­sion of stolen goods. Should you: a) be­have well in pri­son and hope to be re­leased af­ter less than three years; or,

b) start a fraud scheme that you can run from your pri­son cell to ex­tort thou­sands of rand from un­sus­pect­ing people across four prov­inces?

Well, it looks like Pre­to­ria pri­son in­mates Lu­cas Masemola and Te­bogo Mashishi de­cided to take the lat­ter op­tion, af­ter they were busted by the na­tional anti-cor­rup­tion de­tec­tive unit for al­leged fraud ear­lier this month.

Masemola, 44, and Mashishi, 24, housed at the Odi Pri­son in Mabopane, north of Pre­to­ria, had been under sur­veil­lance by the unit since July this year, af­ter it re­ceived nu­mer­ous com­plaints from the Crime Stop hot­line.

The pair would al­legedly tele­phone dif­fer­ent police sta­tions pos­ing as se­nior police of­fi­cers, ask­ing for in­for­ma­tion on var­i­ous crim­i­nal cases.

“The sus­pects are al­leged to have ob­tained in­for­ma­tion about com­plainants and sus­pects of crim­i­nal cases, mostly in re­spect of car-jack­ings and theft of mo­tor ve­hi­cles and they would use this in­for­ma­tion to ex­tort money from their vic­tims,” said police spokesper­son Lieu­tenant-Colonel Katlego Mo­gale. While in­ves­ti­ga­tors haven’t ruled out pos­si­ble police col­lu­sion in the ob­tain­ing of this in­for­ma­tion, Mo­gale said this was still sub­ject to in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“The sus­pects would then con­tact crime vic­tims, in­form them that their ve­hi­cles have been re­cov­ered and the vic­tim must de­posit cer­tain amounts of money through e-wal­let/money mar­ket to get their ve­hi­cles back,” she said.

Ac­cord­ing to a source close to the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, the pair would of­ten tell their vic­tims that there was a pos­si­bil­ity the cars would not be re­turned due to is­sues with the engine or chas­sis num­bers be­ing re­moved af­ter the ve­hi­cles were stolen. This would es­sen­tially force the vic­tim to bribe who they be­lieved were police of­fi­cers to get their ve­hi­cles back.

When they tar­geted sus­pected crim­i­nals who had been ar­rested, the pair would con­tact the sus­pects’ next of kin to ask for money, usu­ally in an at­tempt to so­licit a bribe to have the case dock­ets dis­ap­pear.

Mo­gale said the anti-cor­rup­tion in­ves­ti­ga­tion unit had dis­cov­ered the pair had tar­geted mul­ti­ple vic­tims across the prov­inces of Gaut­eng, Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal and North­ern Cape.

“The t wo sus­pects were sub­se­quently ar­rested in Pre­to­ria cor­rec­tional fa­cil­i­ties. During the op­er­a­tion, t he sus­pects were found in pos­ses­sion of cell­phones which they used to con­tact vic­tims during com­mis­sion of the crimes,” Mo­gale said.

The pair were taken to the Kemp­ton Park Mag­is­trate’s court on Tues­day, fac­ing charges of ex­tor­tion, fraud, theft, de­feat­ing the ends of jus­tice and im­per­son­at­ing a police of­fi­cer. How­ever, police are con­cerned they have not yet found all of Mak­ena and Masemola’s vic­tims, and are ask­ing any­one who has re­ceived sus­pi­cious phone calls from people pur­port­ing to be police of­fi­cers to come forward.

“Com­mu­nity mem­bers are urged to come forward with any in­for­ma­tion in re­la­tion to this scam or if they might have been a vic­tim of the scam. Con­tact Cap­tain Kwena Se­faamela on cell­phone num­ber 071 361 9419, or Sergeant Mpho Mashishi on cell­phone num­ber 082 770 5404. They may be con­tacted during of­fice hours,” said Mo­gale.

It is un­der­stood that com­plaints have been laid with pri­son au­thor­i­ties re­gard­ing how the men were able to keep their de­vices in their cells without be­ing de­tected.

They al­legedly ob­tained in­for­ma­tion on com­plainants and sus­pects in cases and use it to ex­tort money

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