Newlyweds allege Durban couple scammed them out of R60K with promise of MSC cruise
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Durban: Following the arrest of a Durban couple for allegedly operating a travel scam for almost a R1 million, a newlywed couple have come forward alleging their dream holiday never materialised.
Alleged travel scamsters Megasen Roland Chetty and Sarasvathi Belinda Pillay were granted R5000 bail shortly after their arrest.
The couple is said to have robbed people of a collective R900 000.
Two of the victims are newly-weds from Chatsworth.
The couple who preferred not to be named had been married for just a year were searching for holiday deals at the time aboard the MSC.
They were referred to the alleged scamsters by a business client.
The scam company purported to be running a related special.
The 29-year-old wife – a beauty salon owner who declined to be named for fear of victimisation – said: "It happened about two years ago. We were so excited to go on holiday. After making contact, we were told that it would cost us R1000 per person for a cabin of four."
The couple booked the trip for April that year and spread the word of the special offer to family, friends, and their business clients.
"We then became the middlemen. We paid a total of about R60 000 for a few cabins for friends, family, and clients for different times of the year."
She became suspicious when she asked for the tickets and excuses were made.
"The lady told me that she could only get the tickets a week before the scheduled trip due to the special."
The couple, and two friends expected to accompany them, continued to prepare for the trip.
"We bought clothes and other items, and we were ready to go. But when we tried calling her, she would not answer."
The trip never came and they knew she had been scammed.
"A month after the trip, about 40 of us went to their house in Malvern, wanting our money back. They paid R1000 here and there to some people, but not all of it."
She spoke of another couple who were promised a trip to Sun City. The couple paid the suspects R12 000, but when they arrived at the resort, they did not have a booking.
She said another family had booked for the MSC as a treat for their son who had cancer but was never able to go. She said the son passed on a while later and the family was devastated.
"It's been hard for us. She has ruined friendships and relationships that we can't get back. It is heartbreaking to see how much money she stole from people."
The alleged scamsters, Chetty, 38, and Pillay, 47, were arrested on May 28 by Detective Constable Justin Durugiah of Provincial Commercial Crime Investigations.
They were charged with 14 counts of fraud, alleged to have been committed from February 2018 until October 2019.
They appeared before Durban Magistrates’ Court where they were granted bail of R5 000 each.
Captain Nqobile Gwala, spokesperson for KZN SAPS, said the couple has been linked to a string of fraud cases committed in different areas like Chatsworth, Phoenix, Malvern, Town Hill, Tongaat, and other areas.
"Their modus operandi was to promise people discounted holidays abroad and locally. The total amount of cash that was defrauded is R900 000."
The couple is alleged to have used a front company called RnB Workwear to conduct their dealings.
It is alleged that they would send a few people for holidays on good deals and use them as references.
A KZN man said he also fell victim to the scam in 2018.
He said he paid for a two-week trip to the USA for him and 18 to 20 others.
"I lost R380 000. Their modus operandi was to pay any time in the year, then they would provide the dates to the trip.
"They were referred to me by one of my cousins. She would deal with them for business, a work-wear company used the company to say their boss had extremely good rates."
He said he had collected the money from his group and paid the money to them.
"Once the money was paid, we tried to get a hold of them but the phone would just ring. They had just disappeared."
He said he did get suspicious when he visited their offices in Malvern.
"They had boasted about owning this big work-wear company but when I went there, it was a small office with just a few caps and other items."
He said even though the matter has been reported to the police, he knew that they would not get their money back.
"I had to take loans to pay off the people who lost their money, just because I had been the one in contact with them."
A 27-year-old Chatsworth import buyer was another victim who lost R11 000.
She had paid for her and three friends for an MSC cruise to the Portuguese Islands.
Chetty and Pillay are expected to make their next appearance at the Durban Magistrates Court in July.