UNREPENTANT: Miracle 2000 pyramid scheme mastermind Sibusiso Radebe was arrested in 1999 and jailed for two years in 2000.
Johannesburg - Notorious pyramid scheme mastermind Sibusiso Radebe has struck again and vanished with the hard-earned cash of 2000 fortune seekers, including pensioners, who fell for his latest con.

The irate investors are hunting for the convicted fraudster, infamous for operating the failed pyramid scheme - Miracle 2000 - in 1999.

The Star understands that about 2000 investors countrywide have fallen victim to Radebe’s Comforter Coin, a get rich-quick scheme he invented in Ekurhuleni in 2016.

Some of his investors have started organising themselves to lay criminal charges against him, after he could not pay out their returns on investments.

The scheme has more than 2000 investors, who are mostly pensioners, street vendors and middle-income earners. 

The minimum investments start at R1 500 to R15 000, and according to the scheme’s Facebook page, a joining fee of R15 000 was to be introduced this year. 

Investors are lured by the monthly 50% returns that the scheme promises for their once-off investment.

Radebe’s modus operandi in the latest scam included hosting presentation sessions and seminars to lure potential investors.

Dumisani Lukuleni, 58, of Spruitview, who invested R15 000 in the scheme in June, said members became suspicious last month and formed a WhatsApp group to find out if they had similar issues. Lukuleni is the group’s administrator, with more than 100 members.

He said visits to Radebe’s house in Spruitview had been unsuccessful and they believe he has relocated.

“We are still gathering members in the hope that we will be able to open more cases as a collective against Radebe.

“I don’t sleep at night trying to trace his whereabouts. I’ve tried tailing him in my car, but he is quick to disappear.

“I don’t really care that much about the money I’ve lost, I just want to save potential future victims and recover money that other people might have lost to him,” said Lukuleni, a former SAA employee.

Radebe’s cellphone went unanswered on Tuesday. He also did not return text messages requesting comment.

Using the growth chart provided by the Comfort Coin, Lukuleni’s investment was supposed to have grown to almost R2million by this month. In August, it apparently stood at R200 000.

Last year, the South African Reserve Bank investigated 27 money scams that took place in 2016 and resolved 63 investigations from previous years. The majority of these involved investors depositing an advanced small payment in order to receive large sums later.

This was years after Radebe was arrested in 2000 for operating Miracle 2000, which was believed to be the biggest pyramid scheme in the country at the time, generating R36.3m from 55000 investors.

The scheme’s effective 1700% interest rates per annum were way above commercially accepted returns by financial institutions.

Radebe was charged for fraud and contravening the Banks Act, the Harmful Business Practice Act as well as 26 counts of fraud and theft. He was sentenced to an effective two years in prison.

While in jail, his wife and father in-law were also bust for operating three similar schemes with the help of Radebe from inside prison.

Lukuleni said investors were either negligent for not checking Radebe’s track record when they joined Comforter Coin in 2016 or those who knew him before had forgiven him.

“I was one of the ignorant ones. I didn’t care to do my research. The money he promised us was too good. We just wanted to accumulate wealth,” said Lukuleni.

Their dreams soon turned to despair and the man who was once called a “messiah” by investors during the Miracle 2000 trial suddenly became elusive.

In December, Radebe suspended withdrawals, allegedly due to poor market performance. He promised that withdrawals would resume in January, but this was not the case.

This raised their suspicions, and dozens of investors took to the scheme’s Facebook page to vent their outrage.

“We need to notify the authorities about this, as R3 000 is a lot of money. I want my money back with no interest. Sibusiso can run but he can’t hide. I heard that he bought a house in Sandton, that house will burn to ashes, bloody crook,” wrote Hlayi Precious Mathebula.

Meanwhile Virginia Sonto said: “It’s true this is a scam. I joined in July last year. They promised us that we will get payment in January, up to today nothing has happened. Now it’s 2018 I think he must rot in jail.”

Another victim opened a case of fraud and theft at Johannesburg Central police station on Tuesday after Radebe could not return the R4 500 she invested in the scheme last year. 

She needed the money for school registration in January. “Nobody seems to know where he is,” she said.

The Star