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Monday Nov 27, 2017

Couple taken in by 'fake agent'

A young Cape Town couple, ambitious to get into the property business, learnt the hard way when they realised they had been dealing with a bogus estate agent and a law firm employee who allegedly tricked them into believing he was an attorney.

The couple brings to eight the number of people Weekend Argus is aware of who have lost their money in what seems to be a well organised property scam plaguing Delft, and possibly other Cape Town townships.

Like the other victims reported on previously, the couple responded to a Gumtree website advertisement for a 2-bedroom house for R130 000. They contacted the person indicated as the estate agent to arrange a viewing and made an offer to buy the property in March this year.

According to this newspaper's investigation, the house is the same one "sold" to another victim also in March this year. While the title deed is verified by the Deeds Office as reflecting Mcebisi Dlungwana as the real owner, there is no telling if the person who signed the sale agreement with the couple and with the first victim was in fact Dlungwana.

The couple said the agent had taken them to Heyns & Partners in Khayelitsha, where they were assisted by Godfrey Stanley, who allegedly introduced himself to them as an attorney.

After signing the agreement with Stanley, the couple transferred the sale amount of R130 000 into what they believed to be the owner's account, on Stanley's advice. They became worried when they could not reach the agent or the owner, they said. They suspected they had been scammed when Stanley called them a few days later asking them to pay more money to complete the transaction.

He told them that after paying the sale amount, they would not pay anything more until the house was in their name, but he called talking about another payment, they said.

One of the directors of the law firm, Cornelia van Heerden said Stanley was not an attorney but the office manager of the firm's Khayelitsha branch.

She denied the company or Stanley had been involved in any wrongdoing.

Asked why Stanley had drafted a legal document and offered legal advice, Van Heerden said: "The deed of sale is a standard document which was drafted by one of our conveyancers. Mr Stanley completed the document by inserting the details provided by the parties."

Van Heerden said the firm was aware of the transaction and confirmed that the couple had been assisted by Stanley. She said there was nothing amiss with the couple transferring the property sale amount into the property owner's account.

"It is common practice in the Khayelitsha area that purchasers pay the purchase price directly to the seller when a property is bought," Van Heerden said adding that the couple had been informed of the risks involved in paying the purchase price directly to the seller.

"It is standard practice when consulting with clients to inform them of the risks involved in paying a purchase price directly to the seller before registration, but this advice is seldom followed," Van Heerden said.

The firm would not be taking any action against Stanley but would contact the couple to discuss a way forward, she said.

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition)

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