So far local police are investigating at least three cases of fraud related to the misfortune of the matrics who arrived in the coastal holiday town for the annual student festival to find that the accommodation they had booked and paid for was not available and the booking agent nowhere to be found.
Several groups of youngsters claim they had booked their Plett Rage accommodation through property management company, Ethos Property Management, but when they arrived last week found that the property they had booked was not available. The teens were not only left stranded, but lost thousands of rands. Claims range between R3000 and R30000 and the total is believed to in the region of R250000.
Among the victims are Jackie Luck and her daughter Amber from East London who lost R34500 in the scam.
“We paid a R15000 deposit to secure the booking and then a further R19500 before arriving. This included the outstanding balance and a breakage fee,” Luck said.
She had booked for a group of 10 youngsters. The booking agent, known to the teenagers and their parents as Rick Havemann, has since last Friday not been contactable through either his known cellphone and office numbers or email address. The website students had used to make contact with the company has also since closed down.
Weekend Argus also attempted to locate the address which was listed as the Ethos Property Management office on the corner of Gibb and Main streets, but there is no such office.
Plettenberg Bay police spokesman Captain Marlene Pieterse confirmed that police were investigating two cases of fraud relating to the incident and East London police confirmed that another matter relating to the Plett Rage accommodation scam had been reported there.
Since news about Havemann made headlines, several other residents have come forward claiming they too had had run-ins with the alleged fraudster. One of them is local resident Jason Rea who said he had reported Havemann to police after he allegedly rented Rea’s property Raven’s Place from him and left without paying the water and electricity bill of more than R120000. It also appears that Havemann’s alleged scams were not limited to Plettenberg Bay or South Africa.
Richard Cornock from South Wales said Havemann allegedly befriended him as a neighbour in 2011 and disappeared with about R223000 of his money.
“He (told us) he had bought a £1million flat which he was selling tickets in a raffle for. He showed me all the tickets and they looked good. He needed about £10000 (R172000) to pay his costs so we lent it to him,” Cornock said.
Cornock added that they had a contract drawn up stating that he would pay the money back after three months, but the money was never repaid.
Cornock said Havemann showed him all the paperwork to back up his story.
“Several weeks later I gave him an ultimatum to pay up or I will go to the police. He disappeared the next day to Namibia.”
Cornock reported the matter to local police.
Nicola Foulkes from Chepstow, Wales said her path also crossed with Havemann and she lost more than £3 000 (R51 000) to him.
Pieterse said that if anyone had any information about Havemann’s whereabouts they should contact Plettenberg Bay police.
Garden Route Media