Arrest of Spar employees reveals ticket scam that cost Putco millions
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JOHANNESBURG: The arrest of two men over a Putco bus ticket scam has lifted the lid on a years’ long racket that has cost the bus company millions.
Hawks Captain Dineo Segotodi said Mpho Mdaka, 33 and Mandla Shabangu, 51, both employees of Spar in Kwamhlanga, Mpumalanga, were arrested for allegedly stealing blank Putco bus tickets from Spar, printing them and distributing them to unsuspecting passengers.
The two were arrested while on duty on Wednesday. They appeared in court in their Spar uniform on Thursday.
“The unlawful activities of the two arrested suspects have been linked to other syndicates previously arrested for the same crime in the area between March and May 2021,” she said.
Putco groups operations executive Jack Sekwaila said the scam had been going on for almost four years. As a result of the fraud, the bus company was losing between R500 000 and R1 million a month.
Sekwaila said the bus company had suspected that something was going on when it noticed its income was declining while buses were running as normal and at satisfactory loading capacity.
“Red flags were raised and that instituted an investigation. Among other methods of investigations was the collection of already sold weekly and monthly tickets from passengers when they expire on Fridays and month end.
“Another method was that the company hired inspectors on normal week days to examine tickets. They identified unusual printings discrepancies on tickets sold and reported this to management which helped to gather intelligence,” Sekwaila said.
Putco, he said, had outsourced the selling of tickets to several outlets in order to make them more accessible to commuters.
“These outlets were allocated equipments and blank Putco bus tickets as stock to print and sell tickets. Spar was one such of outlets.
“The methods used by perpetrators is that they buy one authentic ticket from an official outlet and they then scan to duplicate the ticket, meaning that one ticket can be reproduced many times. They also have the ability to somehow scan and audit the ticket price, reference and serial numbers of the ticket they clone.”
Sekwaila said some passengers who were found to be in possession of fraudulent tickets during inspection inside the buses were interviewed, which helped the company determined where they had bought them.
“Such information led to the arrest of the perpetrators, who mostly owned the internet cafés,” he said.
Mdaka and Mhlanga appeared in the Kwamhlanga Magistrate’s Court. They were granted R1 000 bail each.
The case was postponed until September 6, 2021 for further investigations.