Johannesburg - A member of the public who pretended to be an employee of Johannesburg Water has been arrested by the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks) for attempting to solicit a bribe of R2000 from a resident in Westdene, Johannesburg, the city said on Sunday.

The suspect would appear in the Johannesburg Commercial Crimes Court on Monday, mayor Herman Mashaba said.

"The suspect, who calls himself Brian, has been operating for quite some time and extorting monies from residents whose water bill was in arrears in places like Brixton, Westdene, Aucklandpark, Sophiatown, Bosmont, Riverlea, Westbury, and Newlands. He reconnected water supply to houses that were cut off after being paid by the residents.

"It is alleged that he approached a chairperson of a sectional title building which houses students after services to the building were cut off due to late or non-payment. Late last year the suspect allegedly approached the resident and indicated that if he received R4500 the water supply would be reconnected. The resident subsequently paid the amount," Mashaba said.

Thereafter he allegedly told the resident that it would cost him a further R15,000 to R20,000 to organise a payment arrangement with the city. He suggested that the resident pays him R1500 monthly to avoid further cut offs.

Last week the resident received a message on his cellphone which stated the water meter on the property was removed. He then contacted the suspect who told him that it had to be removed because of discrepancies on the serial number. He allegedly requested R3000 to prevent the meter from being removed.  He was allegedly paid R1000 early last week and told to collect R2000 on Friday.

The resident then contacted the city’s Group Forensic and Investigation Service (GFIS) and a sting operation was set up together with the Hawks. An arrangement was made to meet the suspect at KFC in Sophiatown. The suspect arrived to collect the money and was arrested as he was leaving the complex with the R2000.

"I would like to commend the resident who said enough is enough and reported the matter to our team. I would like to encourage anyone who has been scammed by the so-called Brian to please come forward; the information will assist the police as they investigate the matter further.

"Corruption has no place in this administration and we will work tirelessly, and in collaboration with institutions such as the Hawks, SAPS [SA Police Service], JMPD [Johannesburg Metro Police Department] to ensure that it is eradicated and that residents of Johannesburg receive the quality services they deserve.

"I would also like to encourage people to report any fraud and corruption activities through our 24-hour tip-off hotline 0800-002-587 or visit the GFIS offices situated at 48 Ameshoff Street in Braamfontein," Mashaba said.

African News Agency/ANA