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Four inmates busted for running online scam, extorting more than R1m from victims

Four inmates were caught running an escort scam in Pretoria from which they extorted more than a million rand from their victims.

According to a statement issued by the South African Police Service (SAPS), the operation by the Hawks Serious Corruption Investigation team in Gauteng, and the Emergency Support Team (EST) from Gauteng Department of Correctional Services (DCS) followed an investigation which brought everything to light.

“This follows an in-depth investigation into corrupt police officers allegedly extorting money from several male victims who had sought service of a clandestine online escort agency.

“The victims would later be informed by someone purporting to be a police officer that a case of rape and fraud was open against them as they used fake money to pay the sex workers. They would also present a fake warrant of arrest through WhatsApp and demand payment to ensure that the police along with the prosecutor make the cases disappear,” the statement reads.

“They further sourced a call log from an online base escort agency continuously to contact the victims who paid them in fear of prosecution. Over the period between May and August 2022, the total amounts of R760,000 and R560,000 had been paid into two separate accounts provided to the victims to deposit the money.”

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The operation took place at Odi and Baviaaspoort Correctional Centres in Mabopane and Pretoria respectively on Thursday night, and the four accused will have to answer to charges including extortion, impersonation of a police officer, money laundering, forgery and uttering.

Thirty-six smartphones, 19 chargers and other accessories in total were found on the four suspects who are between the ages of 26 and 32.

Police have urged the public to forward with any information they may have regarding the matter and can contact the detective Captain Jacques Loock on 082 778 5626.

The four inmates will appear in Pretoria Magistrate’s Court on Monday. More arrests are imminent.

The SAPS also said that Hawks Provincial Head in Gauteng, Major General Ebrahim Kadwa commended the team for their work on the investigation and warned that those who use services of sex workers and willingly pay police to evade arrest will face corruption charges if they do not cooperate with the police investigation.

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