‘Catch me if you can’
DURBAN: AN ALLEGED conman threw down the gauntlet and told police to “catch me if you can” when they suspected he attempted to extort money from the families in two high-profile missing persons cases in Durban.
After nearly two years of sleuthing, police did exactly that and tracked Brandon Moodley, 27, formerly of Shakaskraal, to Gauteng, where he was arrested last week.
A team of SAPS investigators from the KZN’s Provincial Investigation Unit, which included warrant officers Rajan Govender, Rajen Nagesar and Praved Maharaj found Moodley living in a temple outbuilding in Lenasia South.
Moodley appeared briefly in the Durban Magistrate’s Court on Monday for allegedly attempting to extort money, in August 2018, from the mother of Miguel Louw, who was reported missing at the time.
Moodley apparently demanded R10000 from Raylene Louw in exchange for information he had on the 9-year-old schoolboy’s whereabouts. He wanted the money transferred electronically to him via an eWallet, a banking service that can be accessed countrywide, at most major supermarkets and ATMs.
Prosecutor Kuveshni Pillay told magistrate Vanitha Armu that Moodley used the same modus operandi when he approached the family of Sandra Munsamy, claiming to have knowledge on where she was being held hostage.
Munsamy, a businesswoman from Westville, was abducted in May 2019 but was eventually found, six months later, by a police task team at a home in eMalahleni (Witbank), Mpumalanga.
Four men were arrested.
However, it was not a happy ending for Louw and her family as Miguel’s body was found dumped in Phoenix, two months after he was reported missing in July 2018.
Muhammed Vahed Ebrahim was arrested after the youngster’s body was found near his home.
Ebrahim, who was known to the Louw family, has pleaded not guilty in the matter that is still proceeding at the Durban High Court.
But before the grim discovery, Moodley allegedly strung Louw along with a series of WhatsApp messages and phone calls, claiming he knew her son’s location. He gave Louw a deadline in which she needed to respond.
Louw requested more information and at least a picture to confirm that her son was alive, but Moodley allegedly insisted on being paid first. She did not accede to his demands and never heard from Moodley again.
While Moodley’s phone number registered as unknown on Louw’s phone, police were able to trace the source.
But it was not a straightforward task for police to pinpoint Moodley’s whereabouts as he allegedly used various sim cards and cellphones to communicate.
When Moodley realised police wanted to interview him he engaged attorney Chris Gounden and agreed to meet the investigators at the SAPS Phoenix branch, nearly a year ago. He did not honour that appointment.
Gounden confirmed Moodley was due meet police officers, but he was not aware what the meeting was about.
It was during a subsequent telephonic conversation with police that Moodley allegedly said: “Catch me if you can.”
In April, police established that Moodley had moved from Durban to somewhere in Gauteng and eventually narrowed down his location to a Lenasia South address, last week.
Police believe Moodley had no direct involvement in the Louw or Munsamy matters but was an opportunist who targeted unsuspecting people. He was usually drawn to those who advertised lost pets and other valuables on social media platforms, and allegedly used the same modus operandi to extort money.
Pillay also said in court that an arrest warrant had been issued for Moodley regarding a fraud matter in Glencoe.
That matter apparently relates to the purchase and sale of a computer.
Pillay told the court that Moodley was a “flight risk”. Therefore, the
State was opposed to Moodley being granted bail.
Attorney Raeesa Khan, who stood in for Gounden, said her law firm was preparing for a formal bail application.
Armu adjourned the matter to July.