While victims of a fraudulent house-selling scam hailed Mfuleni taxi owners as heroes when they apprehended five bogus estate agents, on Saturday May 28, police have urged people not to take the law into their own hands.
The agents allegedly conned three Mfuleni families of thousands of rands by “selling” people’s houses without their knowledge. In three separate incidents, the group robbed desperate buyers of R300 000. They sold one house for R135 000, another one for R87 000 and another house for R78 000.
Three of the five agents were caught after a trap was set by the owners and were taken to Kuwait taxi rank in Site C, leading to the arrest of the two other agents. The taxi owners had pretended to be interested in buying a house and planned a meeting with them in Mfuleni.
Upon their arrival at the venue, they were apprehended and taken to Kuwait, where they confessed to the crimes.
One of the victims, Busisiwe Nkumanda, said she bought the house on Wednesday April 13, after seeing the advert on Gumtree, and contacted the agents who took her and her husband to view the house in Mfuleni which was priced at R140 000, but was sold to them for R135 000.
“They then advised us to meet their lawyers who would did the paper work,” she said.
“We also met the owner of the house who introduced herself as Brenda.”
Ms Nkumanda said they gave the owner three weeks notice to move out. But when they contacted the owner to inform her that they would be moving in at the end of the month, she did not answer her phone. They then became suspicious. She said they went to the house again only to discover that “Brenda” had misrepresented herself and was not the real owner of the house.
“We were then introduced to the real owner of the house who told that the house was indeed for sale, but he had not found a buyer yet,” she said. She said the owner told them that she had asked “Brenda” to help find a buyer.
Ms Nkumanda said she opened a case of fraud against the agents, but the police seemed not to be making any progress on her case, forcing her to seek help from the taxi owners. She said she and her husband had sold their house in Kuils River and applied for a loan to buy the house in Mfuleni.
Battling to contain her tears, Ms Nkumanda said her family now lived with relatives.
One of the agents admitted to Vukani that they had sold the house and shared the money among themselves. The woman, who previously worked as an estate agent, said the was deceived in December last year, when she met Brenda. . who was selling houses illegally. “We have sold a couple of houses fraudulently, but we had never been caught,” she said. “We forged the title deeds as well as the IDs of the owners so that they could correspond when we went to the lawyers.”
Another victim, Kabelo Jali, told Vukani that he paid R87 000 for a house in Delft. He said he made a loan of R100 000 to buy the house which was sold for R90 000. “I gave her R87 000 and I said she would get the balance once I have moved into the house,” he said. He said he was told the house belonged to “Brenda”.
Mr Jali said a couple of weeks later he realised that he had been conned when five armed men came to his house threatening to kill him. They said they had been hired by one of the agents and had been promised R25 000. “I pleaded with them not to kill me,” he said.
Mr Jali said he promised the men more money if they could help him get his money back. He said the men managed to get back R50 000, but he then paid them R40 000. “I was left with R10 000 and later on she gave me R10 000,” he said.
Communication officer of Mfuleni police station, captain Nomathemba Muavha confirmed that a case of fraud had been opened. “The police are investigating a case of fraud. The amount reported was R135 000, which was deposited. The police are still busy with the investigations, which cannot be disclosed at the moment as that might jeopardise the investigation,” she said.
The taxi owners told Vukani they have since released the estate agents, but held on to their vehicles, giving them a deadline of tomorrow, Friday June 3, to pay back the money to their victims.
Captain Muavha, however, urged the public not take the law into their own hands. “Police were not aware that the taxi owners had apprehended the five estate agents and they should have handed the suspects to the police because the case against them had been opened already. The action which has been taken by the taxi owners was illegal and they should have allowed the law to take its course,” she concluded.