A man unloads new cars from a motor trailer. The picture was taken using the window reflections of a car dealership in the foreshore. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA) Archives
A man unloads new cars from a motor trailer. The picture was taken using the window reflections of a car dealership in the foreshore. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Consumer Watch: Used car salesman guilty of highway robbery

By Georgina Crouth Time of article published Mar 16, 2020

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A used car salesman’s dirty tricks have finally caught up with him, his wife and an associate. Four years after Erens and Crische Uys, from Gordon’s Bay, and their associate Denzil Bell, from Caledon, appeared in the Specialised Commercial Crime Court in Bellville, the Uys couple admitted to no less than 220 chargesd, including fraud and racketeering. Bell is believed to be on the run and a warrant is out for his arrest.

The matter is back in court on April 6, when they will be sentenced.

In 2016, ANA reported that Crische Uys, faced 13 charges of fraud, 13 of theft by false pretences, nine of forgery, and one of racketeering, one of incitement to commit forgery, one of incitement to commit uttering and one of money laundering.

Erens Uys faced 30 counts: 14 of fraud, 13 of theft by false pretences, two of racketeering and one of money laundering.

Bell faced 10 counts - nine of uttering (presenting fraudulent documents in business transactions) and one of forgery.

The trio were notorious and well-connected operators in Kuils River, where they traded in used vehicles under the name Highway Motors.

ANA reported that Erens managed the dealership, Crische kept the books to give their operation a semblance of respectability, while Bell was their driver and “general assistant”.

Erens’ modus operandi was to take over vehicles that were due for repossession from victims who were unable to keep up their monthly instalments. He undertook to continue the monthly payments to the financing banks, in exchange for possession and use of the victims’ vehicles. However, he failed to pay those late instalments, and sold the vehicles to third parties.

He also sold clapped-out “skedonks”, which would need work, and even offered financing to those who could not afford to buy outright.

Victims, who did not want to be identified, told Consumer Watch how they feared the couple and their links to police and local gangs.

Some victims had lost their cars for minor deposits; others never received any payments; while a number said they had put down deposits but never received any vehicles.

The vehicles were later either repossessed from the unwitting new owners, or confiscated by the police as stolen.

Victims said the Uys couple were easily able to change ownership at the licensing department and were often seen standing outside the dealership with police, smoking and joking together.

One told me she feared what they would do with her personal information as she had supplied copies of her IDs and home address, while another said he had approached Kuils River and Manenberg police to open a case of theft but was told they could not help as he had given Erens both his car and ownership papers, which he denies.

Another victim explained how he had bought a faulty vehicle from Highway Motors, never received papers for it and suspected it was stolen. When he returned the car, he insisted on a refund but the salesman Jacques gave him the run-around. He’s received some money back but is still owed over R12000.

A victim’s own investigations on Facebook, Marketplace, OLX and Gumtree revealed a network of dodgy dealers, who operate under a number of aliases.

He says: “They advertise all over the Western Cape and Northern Cape and according to them the vehicles on offer are in mint condition every time. Some of the vehicles are stolen in Gauteng and sold on the coast.

“They sell vehicles without paperwork, give you the option to pay it off monthly but the minute you default they take back the vehicle, (I’m talking about the same day, and then you lose every cent you have paid thus far). They don’t refund customers when a vehicle is taken back, don’t pay you for a trade-in and the list goes on. They seem to be preying on the vulnerable and stupid. I am one of those stupid people, yes LOL.”

Eric Ntabazalila, the Western Cape National Prosecuting Authority’s spokesperson, says Erns Uys and his cohorts became the subject of a Hawks investigation in 2011.

“After a long prosecutor-guided investigation, prosecution was instituted in 2016. At the time the prosecutor also engaged the Office of the Consumer Protector in the Western Cape regarding Erns Uys.

"They acknowledged unhappy consumers had in fact reported complaints to their office regarding Uys which was the subject of investigation and enquiry.”

He says the prosecutor viewed their conduct as part of a “pattern of racketeering activity” and that they were in fact an “enterprise” as contemplated in the Prevention of Organised Crime Act 121 of 1998 (Poca).

“To this effect, the NDPP authorised racketeering certificates in terms of Poca on June 1, 2016, to charge Erns Uys as a manager of an ‘enterprise’ and Crische.” Two others were charged alongside the Uys couple, one of whom co-operated with the Hawks and testified against them. Bell has disappeared.

Only two witnesses testified against them, out of a potential of more than 30 witnesses.

In 2017, the Uys couple’s lawyer withdrew due to an apparent lack of funds. On January 22, the couple made 220 formal admissions on all the charges.

If Mr Uys is in fact continuing with criminal activities as being alleged, the persons complaining should report their matters to the SAPS for investigation with a view to prosecuting him on new charges.

Ntabazalila said they advise the victims to open additional cases of fraud at their nearest police station. Police have told victims that it’s a civil case, though it’s not.

“They also need to report these cases of intimidation to the police.”

* Georgina Crouth is a consumer watchdog with serious bite. Write to her at [email protected], tweet her @georginacrouth and follow her on Facebook.

** Receive IOL's top stories via Whatsapp by sending your name to 0745573535

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