Man accused of fleecing Joburg's Jewish community of R60m flees to Israel
Johannesburg - A Joburg accountant is facing allegations that he ran a ponzi scheme that fleeced more than R60-million in inheritances and savings from mainly members of the Jewish community.
Police have confirmed that they are investigating the self-employed accountant, who is believed to have left South Africa for Israel.
A case of fraud was opened this week at Sandringham police station, in northern Joburg, on behalf of one of his victims.
“The police are investigating a case of fraud. No one has been arrested as yet,” said Captain Mohlaume Mamabolo.
Although the police did not name the suspect, he is known to The Star.
IRS Forensic Investigations, a private firm, opened the case on behalf of Andrea Colley, who said she wanted the alleged conman jailed for fleecing her and Jewish community members out of more than R60m.
IRS chief forensic investigator Chad Thomas said Colley’s case could become one of “many cases against the alleged fraudster running a ponzi scam, and targeting a specific religious group and family members”.
He added that the case had the hallmark of a ponzi scheme, with its promises of great returns on investments.
“Multiple people have come forward, many from the Jewish community claiming to have invested with him, but that payments on their investments had stopped being made.
“In the case of Mrs Colley, he claimed that he invested her money with Steinhoff on her behalf. But after the collapse of Steinhoff, he claimed she had lost her investment,” Thomas said.
“But when he was confronted by investigators from IRS, he changed his story, saying that he had in fact invested in a game farm venture. We have estimated that the total losses in this particular scam currently run in to tens of millions of rand,” he pointed out.
Colley said the accountant made off with millions of rand which he claimed to have invested.
She said it was estimated that he had collected the R60m from about 50 community members.
“We invested money from inheritances, from estates that he had wound up for us, and from retirement funds,” she said. “He wound up the estates and he kept most of the money. Unknown to us, he was running a ponzi scheme.
“He presented himself as a God-fearing Jewish man, so we all trusted him to do right by us.
“We’ve collectively lost millions. It’s not only our family that have lost millions,” Colley added.
She said it had become a big talking point around Sandringham that the man had swindled many people.
“It’s going around the community And everyone is talking about it.”
Colley said the money she lost was for her retirement from her pension and bequest.
“I first gave him money in January 2014 when I came back from England. That was my retirement benefit, and then my inheritance in about August 2016,” she said.
“The idea was that he was going to invest this money and I’d receive interest monthly and the capital at the end of the investment term, which for me was in February. He stopped paying in September 2018.”
With chances of recovering the money now clearly slim, Colley said she wanted the accountant jailed for fraud. “We actually don't know what he has done with the money or whether any of it is recoverable.”
A family based in Australia also fell victim to the scheme, The Star has established.
In February the high court in Johannesburg ordered the suspected fraudster to repay R2.5m to the family.
Yolandie Britz, attorney for the family in Australia, said this was inheritance money that the accountant was supposed to transfer to an Australian bank account.
“My client inherited the money from his family. He (man) was supposed to take it through the Reserve Bank and transfer it to the Australian bank account, but he did not do it.
“He utilised that money for his own purposes,” Britz said.@BonganiNkosi87