419 Heartbreaker's Follow-up
||15 April 2012 07:00
Chantal Rutter Dros
|Show: ||Carte Blanche|
[4 March 2012] Devi Sankaree Govender (Carte Blanche presenter): "419 Scams are becoming a lot more sophisticated. The latest one targets a specific person, using romance to get to the cash."
[4 March 2012] Monique Roeloffse: "Do you still need the money then? So you still don't have your submarine sorted?"
[On phone] Josef: "I need two 2 000... 2 000... 2 400 pounds... My Pretty. I will pay back once I get back."
We exposed a scamster operating from Kempton Park, using this man's image - claiming to be a civil engineer called Josef Werner, supposedly working for Shell in the UK on an underwater pipeline.
Chantal Rutter Dros (Carte Blanche presenter): "It's seems that Josef Werner's scam is a lot more successful than what we initially thought - he appears to have fleeced women out of hundreds of thousands of rand."
We untangle the web of deceit and track down the men behind the 419 Heartbreaker scam. Suzette Plantema is one of the victims. She fell for Josef's sob story and was outraged when she recognised his voice while watching our original story.
Suzette Plantema: "He was calling her 'my pretty,' he was calling her the sort of endearments he used for me and I felt intense anger."
Suzette not only coughed up for the so-called repairs after the submarine explosion, she also helped Josef get a tax clearance certificate, booked flights and sorted out visa issues.
But when Suzette's life savings ran dry, Josef had a bright idea.
Suzette: "Lately, he has suggested that if I couldn't get a loan, would... could I sell my car?"
To show that he was good for the money, Josef sent Suzette the same Shell contract and cheque we proved to be fake in our original story.
Chantal: "In total, how much money did you give him?"
Suzette: "I'm embarrassed to say so, but it's R250 000. He was actually crying on the phone saying he can't come until he's completed the job. And I just thought lend him the money - I had no reason to doubt him at that stage."
Nor did "Elize" - not her real name. Love turned to rage when she watched our initial story.
'Elize': "I spoke to him for two-three months, and when Devi Sankaree was on the phone with this guy, I immediately recognised his voice."
Chantal: "So you were in love?"
'Elize': "I don't think I ever fell for anyone like I did for this one. Ooh, me meeting a petroleum engineer, wow! And he wants to come home to me? That's beautiful! But it wasn't."
"Elize" soon joined a trail of broken hearts.
Although her online Romeo had a different stolen identity, there were similarities to Josef Werner's tale of woe. He also worked for Shell and had money issues.
He sent "Elize" a cheque. Closer inspection shows it to be exactly the same cheque number as the one sent to Suzette and the other woman in our original story.
Chantal: "So how much in total did you hand over to him?"
'Elize': "Just over R500 000."
Chantal: "That's not small change."
'Elize': "Every debt I could make, I made for him. And all the cash I had, I took because I saw the proof of payment."
In total, these online Romeos cashed in close to a million rand. When Suzette realised she had been conned, she approached the banks.
Suzette: "I believe that the accounts that I had paid money into were being used for fraudulent activities and they froze those accounts."
She got bank statements for the dodgy accounts. Hoping to track the 419 Heartbreakers down, she brought the information to us.
Suzette: "You have to do something to stop this."
Chantal: "The biggest challenge with these 419 syndicates is that they create a web of deception with false identities as a front for the scam... different numbers, different addresses, making it difficult to track down the criminals."
After weeks of investigation, the pieces of the puzzle began to make sense.
The phone numbers used by the online Romeos placed them in Kempton Park, there were cash withdrawals from ATMs at garages also in Kempton Park, and both Suzette and "Elize" paid money into the same FNB account.
Chantal: "The account belongs to Ebenart Motors, and the only director is Ebenezer Nartey, a Ghanaian citizen who lives in South Africa.
This is the registered address for the business in Kempton Park.
While there's no sign of Ebenezer or Ebenart Motors, bank records confirm that this man, Ebenezer Nartey, personally withdrew money from the account.
Chantal: "Most of the money from Ebenart Motors goes into an account held by FALDNK Property Investments."
Besides the Ebenart Motors account, Suzette also paid money directly into a FALNDK Property Investment bank account.
This led to a second suspect, the account holder is one of Ebenezer Nartey's Facebook friends, Ghanaian David Febri.
We were able to trace him to Bedfordview, an adjacent suburb to Kempton Park.
Chantal: "David? Chantal from Carte Blanche. How are you?"
David Febri: "Fine."
Chantal: "I have a couple of questions to ask you. What involvement have you had in FALDNK Investment Properties?"
David: "Which one is FAL...?"
Chantal: "FALDNK Investment Properties - one of your companies."
David: "F... A...?"
David seemed to have forgotten that both he and his wife were registered directors for this company until recently.
Chantal: "Are you at all involved in an online dating scam?"
Chantal: "Fleecing women for their money."
David: "No! No! I have never!"
We showed him Ebenezer Nartey's picture to help jog his memory.
Chantal: "Who do you recognise this man to be? Is this Ebenezer Nartey?"
David: "I think... No, it's not Ebenezer Nartey."
Chantal: "Who is it?"
David: "This guy is from Congolese!"
Correction David. He's from Ghana, just like you.
David claimed that Ebenezer had sold him a car and that they'd only met to finalise the deal.
Odd then, that these pictures show David and Ebenezer socialising together.
Chantal: " David, the game is over. We need to know now - where is Ebenezer?"
David: " I don't know his whereabouts."
Chantal: "Do you have Ebenezer's number on your cellphone?"
David: "I don't have his number. I don't have his number (taking out his phone)."
Chantal: "You've just deleted it! You just deleted something from you phone!"
David: "Deleted what? What is wrong with you? Look, what is wrong with you?"
A clearly irritated David decided to walk away.
Chantal: "Sariki Malik - does that ring a bell to you perhaps?"
David: "Yah, he came with one of these guys. I would not lie to you... why would I lie to you?"
Perhaps because he has something to hide. Sariki Malik, also a Ghanaian citizen, refers to David, Ebenezer and a third man, whom we met with David, as his 'Three Bosses' in this Facebook picture.
David: "(hand on camera) Okay, that's enough! It's enough before I break your camera. I've spoken to you! I'm done with you!"
Man 1 (David's friend): "Just get out from our faces! Don't show us any cameras here - we are not actors! You can't show me on the camera!"
David: "You are not the Judge to judge me! Thousand of proof or evidence; it's none of my business, let's go!"
Clearly he wasn't going to lead us to Ebenezer, but it wasn't a dead end just yet.
Chantal: "This place is listed as Ebenezer last place of residence so let's go up stairs and see if we can find him."
Chantal: "Do you know anyone called Ebenezer Nartey?"
Man 2: "Ebenezer Nartey?"
Chantal: "Ja. Do you know him?"
Man 2: "Ja, he used to stay here and the last one, and here and I think this place also here."
Chantal: "Ebenezer doesn't live here anymore, but we do have some pictures placing him here with these containers in the background."
As we were looking around the area, we were approached with information by someone who asked us to hide his identity.
Chantal: "When you say that they are dangerous, what do you mean by that by that?"
Man 3: "I don't think these are people that you want to mess with."
Chantal: "David claims he doesn't know Ebenezer very well."
Man 3: "I've seen them together on most occasions. It is a lie if he says that they are not friends."
Chantal: "Do you have any reason to believe they're involved in other things like, for example, online dating scams?"
Man 3: "I've heard stories about them creating profiles and chatting to people online, duping people."
Obvious to our informant, but not to those looking for love.
Chantal: "Did you at any point believe you were in love with him?"
Suzette: "I guess I did, yes. I mean, I wouldn't have lent him huge, such a huge amount of money if I hadn't felt that."
Chantal: "They seem to be very wealthy, would you agree with that?"
Man 3: "I agree with that, they are very wealthy - I see them drive very expensive cars, they dress very luxuriously. They've got so much money, so much connections, if they felt that they were threatened by anything now, they could be on a plane back to Ghana."
There's not much chance that any of these women will get their money back. Police aren't really interested, saying they handed it over willingly at the time.
Suzette: "If somebody comes to your door and is collecting for the Red Cross and you give them money thinking they are going to give it to the Red Cross and they walk around the corner and put it in their pocket, isn't that theft? Isn't that fraud?"
But Suzette and "Elize" didn't just investment their money, they invested their hearts too.
'Elize': "For me the biggest thing is the deceit part. You know the money, you can always, it can come back."
Suzette: "For me it wasn't so much about the money, for me it was about having lost what I thought I had found."
IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER:While every attempt has been made to ensure this transcript or summary is accurate, Carte Blanche or its agents cannot be held liable for any claims arising out of inaccuracies caused by human error or electronic fault. This transcript was typed from a transcription recording unit and not from an original script, so due to the possibility of mishearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, errors cannot be ruled out.