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SA conman dupes local models

by Lesotho Times
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. . . promises cars, prizes in elaborate scams

Mohalenyane Phakela

A SOUTH African national has been accused of duping local models of thousands of maloti after promising them modelling contracts and prizes.

The man, whom the models said used the alias Mokena Nhlapo among others and claimed to reside in Fouriesburg, also allegedly demanded sexual favours from the models he lured to South Africa to ensure they were awarded the contracts.

Five models who spoke to the Lesotho Times this week, but requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said they had since lodged a case with the Lesotho Mounted Police Service’s (LMPS) Child and Gender Protection Unit at the headquarters in Maseru.

According to the models, Nhlapo used various scams to convince them to part with their money. To some, he claimed to be a representative of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) in South Africa looking for a model who would be the face of the political party’s campaigns.

However, to the others, he claimed to be an agent for skin and body-care brand Nivea holding an advertising campaign in Bloemfontein.

The conman also promised them a brand new car, R100 000 cash, a laptop and a smart phone if they clinched the contracts. They said Nhlapo would even send pictures of the car and showed them its purported registration papers when they met to prove his claim.

After convincing his victims, the conman would then request money to clear the car with customs at the Maseru Border Post with the amounts ranging from R1 500 to R6 000.

The models deposited the money into the bank account of a Janfeke S Nhlapo.

Upon receiving the money, he would then threaten to shoot the models if they ever exposed or reported him to the police.

The models also accused the Fouriesburg Police of being complicit in Nhlapo’s activities since they certified his affidavits to authenticate the purported contracts. However, Fouriesburg station commander, Captain Mbambo, denied any knowledge of Nhlapo or his affidavits but expressed a willingness to work with the Lesotho police in investigating the matter.

The models said Nhlapo used many Facebook accounts with different names to dupe his victims. Some of his known Facebook accounts are Mokena Nhlapo, Thembi Mazibuko, Thandy Molapo, Mafusi Noxolo, Lucky Mbele and Lebohang Mia.

However, some of the Facebook accounts had been deactivated as of yesterday.

Beauty Pageant Association of Lesotho (BPAL) President Tlali Tlali told the Lesotho Times this week the conman also tried to dupe him in June last year but disappeared after he became suspicious.

“I was introduced to this so-called EFF member by a lady who said Nhlapo was looking for a Lesotho-based model whom the party wanted to use in their advertisements for the local government elections in South Africa. She said the model’s pictures would be put on posters and billboards in South Africa’s border towns,” Mr Tlali said.

“He then called me to arrange an appointment in Lesotho. We had a cordial meeting and I agreed on a contract to provide a model for the campaign. Nhlapo told me he was going to present the contract to his party for approval and also showed me his party card. Nhlapo also claimed that he was not only a member of the party but also its representative.”

Mr Tlali said Nhlapo later called him to say he had met with the EFF leadership and directed to sign the contract with the BPAL.

Nhlapo also claimed to have been given the go ahead by the EFF to pay the shipping and clearance charges for the car.

“That is when I became not just curious but also suspicious of what he was saying. I asked him where the car was coming from and he said it was a South African-registered Ford ST 2014 vehicle. He even sent a picture,” recounted Mr Tlali.

“I then asked him why a car bought and registered in South Africa would incur shipping costs. That is when he began telling me conflicting stories. Now highly suspicious, I demanded to see the car before making any further arrangements. But this never happened.”

He said Nhlapo suddenly became unreachable and later resurfaced claiming he had been hospitalised.

“When I asked what had happened to him, he told me he had a seizure at the Maseru Border Post and was immediately taken to a hospital in Bloemfontein.

“When I then told him I had no problem seeing him at the hospital, he immediately said he was going to be discharged and taken home to Fouriesburg.

“I then told him I had no problem seeing him in Fouriesburg and he came up with another story. Now he was being transferred to another hospital in Kroonstad and that is when he disappeared.”

Mr Tlali added: “By this time, I had begun making my own investigations and came across horrifying stories of girls who had been taken advantage of sexually by Nhlapo. He was also taking a lot of money from them claiming to be shipping and clearing their cars.

“I began looking for him and he eventually started threatening me saying if I ever set foot anywhere in South Africa he would know through his connections and kill me.”

“Nhlapo claimed to be a former member of the South African Police Service and being entitled to a full security escort by the South African government.

“He also claimed to be close friends with some high ranking politicians in Lesotho.

“I reported the matter to the Fouriesburg Police and was told there was already a similar case about Nhlapo which they were investigating. I was surprised to learn just recently that he was still getting his affidavits certified at the same police station where he is supposed to be investigated.”

One of the victims said she was offered a contract to be the face of an EFF advertising campaign.

“Nhlapo contacted me via Facebook around May last year saying he was a member of South African parliament under the EFF party. He said they had a campaign which required a model, saying I would get R1 000, a car, cell phone and laptop,” she said.

“I realised it was too good to be true but he had a way with words. He even took me to some of the EFF rallies in the Free State province and managed to convince me because it all looked genuine.

“He then took me to Fouriesburg Police Station where we signed an affidavit stating that I had agreed to work for the EFF campaign.”

She said Nhlapo called her in June last year asking for R6 000 he said was needed to clear the car at the border.

“I told my mother about this issue as I had been notifying her of everything from the beginning. She called him and they agreed to meet in Maputsoe where she gave him the money and also signed an affidavit at the police station authenticating the transaction.

“My relationship with him deteriorated when I refused to have sex with him as he demanded. He told me I was not capable of doing the EFF campaign and he would give it to someone else who was willing. I asked him about the money we gave him and he said that he would kill me if I ever tried to expose him.”

Other models said he told them a different line, saying he was an agent for skin and body-care brand Nivea holding an advertising campaign in Bloemfontein.

Nhlapo also told his victims they would be given brand new cars and R300 000 cash for appearing on the billboard adverts.

One of the victims said she met Nhlapo at the Maseru Border Post last Friday and told she would go to a Nivea photoshoot in Harrismith and reside in a hotel during the campaign.

“When I got to the border to meet him last Friday afternoon, I realised there were two of us from Lesotho who were going to meet him,” she said.

“He then drove us to Ladybrand where he bought us alcoholic beverages and then we drove to Ficksburg. Along the way, he asked us for R1 500 each which he said was a requirement to enter the Nivea campaign.

“I had R600, which was my rent money, while the other lady had no money with her. Nhlapo said I should give the R600 to him and he would lend me the remaining R900 which I would reimburse later.

“We passed through Ficksburg to pick up his friend whom he called Doc and went to a number of clubs in the area. We left Ficksburg at around 9pm and headed to Fouriesburg.”

Instead of being booked into a hotel, she said they ended up in a five-roomed dwelling popularly known as a RDP house in South Africa.

“The other girl told me she had seen a gun in the car and that we should run away. But I became very afraid when I heard about the gun. “She managed to sneak out and returned with the local police in their car.

“When the cops arrived, Nhlapo went outside to the police car and I followed him. There was also an older lady who came out of the house whom I believe was his mother as she pleaded with us not to get his son arrested.

“We were then asked to get into Nhlapo’s car with him and another police officer following the cop car to the police the station. When we got there, they made copies of our passports and then Nhlapo gave each one of us R100 and told us to go home to Lesotho and never set foot in Fouriesburg again.

“We were surprised by the way the officers handled the whole matter. They talked to him as if they knew each other very well and even shared jokes,” she added.

Another victim said she was approached on Facebook by a Mafusi Noxolo who pitched the same Nivea campaign story. Noxolo asked her to pay R3 000 to land the contract which would result in her being given R300 000 plus a new car.

“Noxolo even sent me pictures and copies of all the documents of the car which she promised me. I agreed to pay the R3 000, then she called me saying her boss would come to meet me in Ladybrand.

“The guy I met introduced himself as Mokena Nhlapo, saying he was Noxolo’s boss. He even showed me about 50 passport copies of other ladies whom he said were also going to be part of the campaign and had already paid.

“I gave him R1 500 cash and told him I would deposit the rest on Friday which he said was the deadline day. Last Friday, I deposited the rest of the money.”

She only discovered she had been duped after reading similar accounts of other models on a local WhatsApp group for models.

“We, as local models, have a WhatsApp group in which we discuss different issues. So, as I was preparing to head to Bloemfontein for the photoshoot last Saturday, I got a call from the models who were left stranded in Fouriesburg and they told me their story.

“I then contacted Nhlapo asking him to return my money before 1pm or I would expose him on Facebook. He then called me back around 11am using a Lesotho number saying I should meet him at Maseru Mall to get my money.

“I called him when I got there and he said he was now at AVANI Lesotho hotel, then later claimed to be in Mazenod until he no longer answered the phone.

“On Sunday, he called saying he was going to refund me via a mobile money transfer service. But I went on to post his picture and story on Facebook. I was surprised to get comments from so many different ladies claiming they were also victims of the guy.”

Fouriesburg station commander, Captain Mbambo, told this paper he was not aware of any cases lodged against Nhlapo, despite Mr Tlali saying he had done so.

Captain Mbambo, however, expressed willingness to cooperate with the LMPS in the event they launched an investigation.

“I have not heard of any complaint or case against this Nhlapo. I am also not aware of these affidavits which were allegedly signed at this station,” he said.

“However, I would advise the victims to open a case with the Lesotho police so they can work with us directly or via Interpol. We promise to assist them in any way we can.”

For his part, LMPS spokesperson Superintendent Clifford Molefe yesterday said he was not aware of the case, adding that he would look into the matter.

However, when the Lesotho Times contacted him again, Supt Molefe said he was in a meeting.

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