Pensioner loses R500‚000 to dating scammer — second suspect arrested

A fake builder conned a pensioner into giving him more than R500‚000 to “pay for his brother’s wedding”‚ his “daughter’s operation” and his “tax debt”.

The pensioner made contact with the alleged scammer on a dating site. Stock image.
Image: 123RF/georgejmclittle

A second suspect has been arrested in connection with the scam by the Hawks’ Gqeberha serious commercial crime investigation unit with the assistance of their colleagues in Bellville‚ Cape Town.

The alleged dating scammers are charged with fraud.

Hawks spokesperson Capt Yolisa Mgolodela said Thembeka Bendon‚ 47‚ appeared briefly in the Cape Town magistrate’s court on Wednesday. He is in transit to the Eastern Cape to appear in the Gqeberha magistrate’s court on Friday.

Thina Mpuhlu‚ 42‚ was arrested in October and was released on R2‚000 bail.

The pensioner contacted a man who called himself Mario Bertolini on a dating site in 2014. After a month of “getting to know each other” via cellphone calls‚ messages and e-mails‚ Bertolini invited her to his brother’s wedding in Rome‚ Italy. However‚ the invitation came too late for her to obtain a travel visa.

He told her he was responsible for funding his brother’s wedding as their parents were deceased and he was the only sibling of the bridegroom. But there was a supposed hitch: his South African bank account was frozen.

He asked her for cash to be paid into a bank account for the brother’s wedding‚ more than R154‚000 for his daughter’s supposed operation and R220‚000 for a debt he had with the South African Revenue Service.

She was told he would return to South Africa from Italy in five days as he had to finish a building contract in Mossel Bay.

The victim told police this helped her trust that he had “the financial muscle to pay back more than R505‚000” she had given to him.

After these transactions‚ “Bertolini disappeared onto thin air”. The Hawks said their investigations proved this was a false name‚ allegedly used by the two suspects.


Source: ARENA Holdings.