Durban widow homeless after being scammed by an estate agent
Durban - A Durban widow believed, with help of an estate agent from a well-reputed agency, she would land a dream home at an upmarket gated estate near family and perfect for her arthritis condition.
But 72-year-old Pathmavathi Moodley’s dream was shattered, and is left financially ruined with no home.
That’s because Martha O’Reilly, the estate agent who was to make the deal happen, allegedly helped herself to R2.1 million from the woman’s bank account without providing a house.
O’Reilly, who was an agent with Tyson Properties when she had Moodley salivating over a R3m unit at the Kindlewood Estate in Mount Edgecombe, north of Durban, appeared at Durban Magistrate’s Court this week. She has been charged with 57 counts of fraud, all related to the R2 091 214 she allegedly swiped from Moodley.
The pensioner could only afford half the asking price of the unit and when that deal fell through, O’Reilly allegedly promised to get something as nice, and talked Moodley into depositing money into an attorney’s trust account for that purpose.
Moodley trusted O’Reilly and made ATM transfers on 10 occasions, in the presence of O’Reilly. But when she suspected O’Reilly was stringing her along, she asked police to investigate.
Their investigations have since revealed that the so-called attorney’s trust account belonged to O’Reilly, and that not 10, but 57 cash transfers ranging from R148 000 to R2 500 were received from Moodley’s bank account between July 2016 and April 2017.
Moodley believes O’Reilly hacked into her account and effected transfers via the internet on the other occasions.
O’Reilly has already been convicted of fraud in a separate matter and was sentenced recently.
In that matter, it emerged she used the same modus operandi to enrich herself with money belonging to clients, while she was in Gauteng.
For those offences, which comprised three fraud charges related to the theft of more than R300 000, she got a five-year prison sentence.
She was due for a bail application when she came before magistrate Vanitha Armu on Wednesday.
Although O’Reilly is presently incarcerated at a Johannesburg prison, the State had planned to oppose bail, in the event O’Reilly’s jail time was reduced, and Moodley’s matter was still proceeding at the time of her release. But O’Reilly abandoned her bail application.
Moodley got acquainted with O’Reilly in 2016 after responding to a magazine property magazine advert.
“I wanted to buy in the Mount Edgecombe area and I needed an agent to show me around and Marti (O’Reilly) responded.”
Moodley said the Kindlewood unit was ideal because it was “step-less”, within walking distance to her sister’s home and there were temples nearby. But all she could afford was R1.5m.
“Marti somehow learnt I had two daughters working overseas and suggested I ask them to assist.”
Moodley refused to do so because she always maintained her independence. “My refusal to accept the Kindlewood deal frustrated Marti, but she persisted. She brought me an offer to purchase the property and asked me to sign it. When I wanted to read the document, she said no and explained that it was just a document to tell the owner I was interested.”
Moodley signed the document.
By then Moodley had already sold her Reservoir Hills property for more than R1.2m.
O’Reilly allegedly talked Moodley into placing the proceeds into Tyson’s trust account, and when a house became available it could be used.
Moodley complied, but she did not know that O’Reilly had committed the money to the Kindlewood deal, thinking that her daughters would assist her and the deal would be completed.
When it failed, R989 000 was returned to Moodley, not before R140 000 had been deducted for commission charges.
Moodley claimed O’Reilly convinced her to transfer the R989 000 into her personal account and not an investment account.
Once the money landed in Moodley’s bank account, that’s when O’Reilly allegedly asked her to transfer money into an attorney’s trust account for the purchase of a property, which police later uncovered was the estate agent’s personal bank account.
She alleged O’Reilly also got her to cash-in investment policies that her husband had bequeathed to her and placed them into her bank account.
Moodley remembers doing 10 ATM transfers believing it was towards the purchase of a new home.
On one occasion, Moodley said that she borrowed R150 000 from a family member because O’Reilly said it was required to transfer a home she had secured.
With no sign of a house after all the cash outlaid, Moodley pressured O’Reilly for an answer, but she allegedly became evasive, elusive and she finally realised she had been scammed.
“I was always confident Marti was getting me a house. Even when my sister and brother-in-law were sceptical, I insisted Marti was authentic because I thought I was dealing with Tyson.
“When I realised that she stole my money, I was very disappointed. I can’t trust anyone now.”
Moodley remembers going Christmas shopping with O’Reilly in 2016.
“I couldn’t afford a fruit cake because of my investments towards a house, but Marti purchased expensive gifts for her family. Little did I realise she was doing it using my money.”
Her brother-in-law Sagie Moodley said they were surprised because she dealt with an estate agent. “You are not buying a property from your neighbour but an agency. All the controls were supposed to be there. Money was shamelessly taken from an old lady who now cannot afford the flat she previously rented.”
Heather Sudding, Tyson Properties administrator, said: “It is with deep regret that we were made aware of the alleged fraudulent acts of Marti O'Reilly, when it was too late to intervene as she had left the company.”
Brigadier Jay Naicker, SAPS KZN spokesperson said: “It is disheartening to see that there are individuals who are scamming unsuspecting citizens of their hard-earned cash. We appeal once again to people to be careful when investing their money or when making large purchases such as houses. It is important to do one’s homework before parting with money.”