Conman on the loose

Vusi Ndlovu

Vusi Ndlovu

Another conman is roaming the streets of Soweto and Johannesburg preying on unemployed people desperate for jobs.

The conman offers work to his gullible victims, but demands a down payment for his services. Then he bolts with the cash they have scraped together.

His operations came to light when an embarrassed victim, who asked not to be named, tried to reclaim the money she had handed him.

The woman, a street merchant, said she met the charmer at her stall in Soweto last month.

"He first proposed love to me and I asked him his age. He said he was 38 and I told him he was too young for me. I told him I was not interested in relationships and he left," said the woman.

The Don Juan returned on February 28 and said he could get her a job at Pik-it-Up, Johannesburg municipality's waste-management company. Then the catch: he demanded R1000 for finding her the job.

"I told him I would give him R400 and that he would get the balance after I had been paid. We made an appointment to meet the next day, when he would take me to the company," she said.

They got off the taxi in Main Street, central Johannesburg, and the persuasive con artist, who was wearing a Pik-it-Up uniform, told her to wait in a deserted area.

"I demanded that he leave his bag with me to ensure he would come back. After a long time, I received a call from a person who told me the man would soon be there.

"I waited for eight hours, but he never came back," she said forlornly. "I opened his bag and found clothing, a toothbrush and toothpaste, his photograph and those of two other women."

She said the man had given her an address at Jabulani Hostel, where he told her he stayed.

"At that address I found a woman who said the man had tried to pull a similar con on her and had stolen her child's cellphone."

The woman at Jabulani Hostel said the man had knocked at her door after a chance meeting and told her that he could place her at Pik-it-Up if she gave him R700.

Too embarrassed to allow her name to be published, she explained how she had been ripped off.

"I was at the gate outside the Pik-it-Up depot in Selby, Johannesburg, looking for work when the man approached us. He was wearing the company's uniform and told us he would give us jobs if we paid him R700.

"I gave him my address and he dropped by that Sunday, but my child's phone went missing while he was in the house. We looked for it and could not find it.

"Clearly he had stolen it because only the three of us were in the house. I chased him away and he left his bag in his hasteto get away. Inside wereclothes, a toothbrush and toothpaste. He never came back,"she said.

Sowetan visited the Pik-it-Up depot in Selby to try and locate the fraudster with the photograph he had left in his abandoned bag, but no one knew him.

However, a woman in an office recognised the scam. She said people posing as the company's employees were known to swindle desperate job-seekers outside the premises.

The conman would come out of the company's yard and promise job-seekers a position - for a fee. Once he had pocketed the money, he would make an excuse and flee with the cash. She said employees were on the alert for the conman after an incident was reported to them, but had not found the culprit.

Soweto police spokesman Captain Fezile Malesa said a woman had opened a case against the fraudster. If caught, he would be charged with theft under false pretences.