Credit card scams are just one of the many ways criminals are cheating people out of their money. Be careful when investing. Picture: Bathini Mbatha/African News Agency (ANA)

Cape Town - A forensic investigations company has issued a strong warning ahead of the festive season about a possible scamster operating from Cape Town and targeting foreigners and locals.

IRS Forensic Investigations sounded the warning after an Australian national, Robert Pastore, contacted them after he was allegedly scammed out of R200000.

Investigator Glenda Paul told the Weekend Argus that in another twist to the saga, Pastore’s bank made an erroneous payment of R65000 into AIP Investments’ account in July.

“However, when Pastore’s bank tried to recall the funds, they were unable to, as the funds had already been utilised by the beneficiary,” said Paul.

Pastore allegedly invested the money with AIP Investments, owned by Jamie Vertue. AIP is based in Cape Town and offers forex trading, binary options and cryptocurrency opportunities.

Pastore claims he transferred R100000 in 2017 and received monthly statements showing the growth of his investment. Towards the end of 2017, Pastore allegedly invested another R100000. However, he grew concerned when his monthly statement in February was allegedly delayed, and when he eventually received it, the statement was in advance until the end of April.

In terms of the statement sent to Pastore, his investment should have grown to R446000.

The Weekend Argus is in possession of these statements and supporting documents.

IRS Forensic Investigations specialises in financial crimes of all types took over the matter in October.

Its investigations revealed that Vertue is registered with the Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA) as a financial services provider under Liberty.

AIP Investments, however, is not registered as an FSP, is not Financial Advisory and Intermediary Services compliant and is operating illegally.

Paul said Pastore queried why his statement was in advance and was told it had been made by Vertue’s secretary.

“From that point onwards, he stopped responding to Robert’s emails, WhatsApp and Facebook messages,” said Paul.

In a WhatsApp message, Pastore attempted to get his money back in an amicable manner.

“If I can help it, I don’t want to go to this length because in the last 18 months you have been really good to me.

“We should come to a sort of agreement to avoid any legal action. I am willing for you just to repay me my two initial investments outlay of R200000. R100000 for my superannuation investment and R100000 for my private investment and settle this with no interest,” the message read.

IRS also contacted Vertue in an attempt to find an amicable solution to the matter.

“He claimed that he had put our client’s investment into an American company, SkyTrade24, which turned out to be a scam and he had been unable to get the money, or the interest back from the company. When I queried as to how he moved the funds out of the country, he explained that he had paid it into a local account.

“However, this does not correlate with the proof of payment he sent me which supposedly shows the money paid into this company’s account (dates and amounts also do not correlate).

“When I queried the payment made in error, Vertue claimed to have been unaware of the issue and that if I could send through the proof of payment as well as proof of Robert’s bank’s efforts to recall the funds, he would refund our client as he had the money in a trust account,” said Paul.

This contradicted his earlier claim of being unaware of the issue. Despite the IRS subsequently sending him the proof of payment and the email Pastore received from the bank, stating that the funds had already been utilised, Vertue allegedly failed to refund the money.

Vertue was reported to the FSCA. In email correspondence with IRS, he said the FSCA contacted him, and he was told to stop which he claimed he did.

Paul said it was then that Vertue tried to get Pastore to sign an agreement in which he would allow his investment to be moved into his new (and also unregistered with the FSCA) investment company AFX Wealth.

In the agreement, it includes the R65000 paid in error, as part of Pastore’s investment, which is incorrect.

On investigation, it was determined by the IRS and the FSCA that AFX Wealth is also not a registered FSP.

“The company shows that Vertue’s wife is the director of AFX Wealth,” said Paul.

The IRS then opened a case at Goodwood Police Station.

Police confirmed that Vertue was known to them as he had come in earlier this year because he claimed to have been scammed.

In email correspondence between IRS and Vertue, he explained that he had tried to open a case against SkyTrade24 (whom he had supposedly traded Pastore’s money with and was subsequently scammed).

IRS said officers informed them that if Vertue had been defrauded, then the case would be closed as civil.

“His lawyer would be sending them (police) an affidavit. When I enquired about the payment in error, the officer said that he believed that was also a civil matter, but that he would be sending the docket to the prosecutor for a decision.”

Case law in South Africa has shown previously that it is an offence to keep or not pay back money that has been paid into an account in error. A recent similar high profile case was that of the student who received R14million which was paid into her account by the NSFAS and subsequently charged by SAPS for theft.

Police spokesperson Noloyiso Rwexana confirmed that the matter is still under investigation.

The Weekend Argus spoke to Vertue’s lawyer, advocate Thembela Mbebe, who believes there is no fraud involved because there was a contract between his client and the investor.

“When one chooses to invest there are risks involved. We are, however co-operating with police. The matter is sub judice and I can’t comment any further.”

The IRS received an email from Pastore about two weeks ago in which he explained that he had received an email from Vertue which advertised his new investment company Seven Shores Capital FX.

In a separate matter, Vertue’s previous employer, which specialises in making and selling office furniture in Epping, told the Weekend Argus that they have also had to bear the brunt of his alleged underhand dealings.

The current financial manager at the company said Vertue began working with them in the latter half of 2015 and was employed full time as financial manager for about a year.

“He then resigned from the full-time contract and worked as a contract employee. He said this was so he could focus on his company AIP investments,” said the manager.

After about three months into Vertue’s part-time contract, the company did not require his services anymore, and his contract came to an end in March last year.

“Shortly after he left, I took over and discovered some irregularities in the company books. I did some more investigations and uncovered a whole lot more.

“There were transactions, even when the company shut down for a few days. We contacted him to explain the irregularities. He refuses to explain and has ignored all correspondence from us.”

The irregularities allegedly added up to about R500000. The company alleges that Vertue had been drawing money out of the company’s account and created entries in the books to cover it up.

“We then contacted a fraud detection company and investigated further. We then opened a case against Vertue at Elsies River Police Station in September last year.”

Lieutenant Colonel Andrè Traut, spokesperson for SAPS, confirmed that Elsies River police are investigating a case of fraud and the investigation is yet to be finalised.

“We have heard from police this year, asking us to get affidavits from the companies listed in the books to say that those transactions never took place,” said the financial manager.

Meanwhile, Vertue claimed he had no knowledge about this cases and had not received correspondence. “I have 28 other clients and they are happy. I don’t care, I have done nothing wrong,” said Vertue.

He claims he hasn’t worked for the furniture company in four years.

Weekend Argus