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Monday Jul 06, 2020

Bogus KZN estate agent bust

Victims of a bogus estate agent who allegedly duped them out of money say it is too early to rejoice after hearing of her arrest.

Nokwanda Vukaphi, 39, was charged with eight counts of fraud in the Durban Magistrate's Court yesterday after she was arrested on Tuesday in Effingham.

Police spokesperson Captain Nqobile Gwala said Vukaphi was accused of falsely advertising flats for sale. She allegedly promised people she would facilitate the process of buying flats.

Her modus operandi was to request victims to deposit large sums of cash into her bank account to secure a flat. She would allegedly prepare false contract documents to be signed by the applicants.

Vukaphi previously worked for an estate agency, where she was responsible for managing rentals for flat owners, operated in Lamontville, Berea, Umbilo, Kwamakhutha and Isipingo.

She allegedly pocketed R1.2 million through the scheme between September 2018 and October 2019.

Prosecutor Calvin Govender said the State opposed bail because Vukaphi was a flight risk and did not have a fixed address.
Govender said police had tasked informers to locate her and she was traced to Effingham. A man believed to be her husband denied she lived there. The court heard that the police then traced her to the Eastern Cape where they made arrangements to meet her, but she did not show up.

Govender said Vukaphi had returned to Durban during the lockdown and the police arrested her at a taxi rank in Durban North on Tuesday. One victim had deposited R600 000 into her account. Vukaphi's attorney Sizwe Cele denied his client was a flight risk. He said she lived with her husband and two children in Effingham.

He said she owned a business, selling food at a taxi rank in Durban North.

Two of her alleged victims, who were in court but declined to be named, said they met her at an estate agency in La Lucia when they addressed a rental dispute.

They knew her as Constance or Connie. Vukaphi allegedly contacted them in August 2019, saying she had a flat for sale on the Berea for R170 000.

"When she showed us the flat, we thought it was a bargain. I did not have any money for a deposit. She advised us how to take a personal loan, increase our overdraft and qualify for a credit card.

"We later found out we had been duped. She blocked us or did not take our calls. She thought she would not be caught. We are happy she is behind bars. It has been very stressful repaying the loan to the bank," one victim said.

A building supervisor on the Durban beachfront said she lost R50 000 in rental income to Vukaphi.

"It has been very stressful. I want to put it behind me, but I cannot. I am glad she was arrested," she said.

The Estate Agency Affairs Board warned property buyers to request estate agents' fidelity fund certificates before entering into any property transactions.

"The board has noted an increase in complaints from consumers against estate agents or persons purporting to be such.

"Consumers must verify banking details of estate agents with the banks in order to ascertain that the transaction is legitimate," said board chief executive Mamodupi Mohlala.

She said scammers would impersonate estate agents by using fake names and contact details, usually from a reputable firm. They disappeared once buyers deposited money into their bank accounts.

Vukaphi is expected to apply for bail next week.

Zainul Dawood
Daily News




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