A group of serial fraudsters led by an elderly man has been apprehended after years of defrauding people looking for lodging in Accra. After accepting cash and giving bogus receipts, the syndicate that displays photographs of rooms and apartments online to woo naïve victims usually flees. According to Derek Ofori-Akyea, who assisted in the arrest of the syndicate’s leadership, the scammers will normally find a location and give the victim a tour before demanding payment if the tenant plans to move in immediately.
Full account of the arrest by Derek Ofori-Akyea below:
Let me share an event from Friday that may serve as a warning to many of us who may fall prey to them and other criminals out there. On Friday, a buddy requested that I join him to pick up an agent who had called earlier to inform him that he had found an apartment that he would be interested in. My acquaintance has been seeking for a new place to live.
This agency had previously given photographs of the apartment and rooms to my buddy, along with a rent quote for both a fully furnished and unfurnished room. Fortunately for my friend, on his way to work, he passed by the same apartment, which had a contact number posted in front of it. “Why go via an agency when I can contact the owner directly?” he reasoned as he accepted the number. He dialed the number only to discover that the sum stated by the agent earlier was not the same. He tells me he was perplexed when the gentleman said that he was the manager and that they had not given out the space to anyone through an agent, but that all interested parties should come straight to them. The manager then advised him to ask the agent to accompany him to the house if he was positive it was the same building as the photos he had received. He went on to say that there had been previous instances of fraud and that he needed to be cautious. This is why my friend requested that I join him (to have a second person with him). We went to the flat after picking up the agent (In fact it was the same place).
The manager, who he called again before we picked up this agent, told my friend to text him when we arrived, and that he was on his way there as well, but wouldn’t be there with his car, but with a friend, because he wants to know if any of these agents are working with any of his employees on the premises. The salesperson took us to the completely furnished room at the apartment, where we met another individual (an old man) who claimed to be the property owner. My friend requested that they excuse us for 5 minutes so we could make a quick decision outdoors after showing us around the premises and offered us a seat in the hall for further conversations.
Prior to this, the elderly man had assured us that if he paid asap or in the morning, we would be able to move in the next morning. We witnessed two individuals enter inside the compound and one telling the security to lock all the gates as soon as possible after we went out. Then he mentioned my friend’s name, to which he replied, indicating that we were the guys seeking for a place to rent. After all of the action, these two men were apprehended; the old man actually leaped from the 1st story to the ground and attempted to scale the fence to flee, but he was apprehended.
Things we discovered while investigating and questioning them while waiting for the property owner (whom the manager had summoned) and the Ghana police.
1. Three different names appear on the elderly man’s picture on three different ID cards (voters, driver’s license, and Ghana card).
2. 2 official receipt books, 1 of which was full, i.e. receipts were provided to people (probably others who had been defrauded) for rent of apartments ranging from $24,000 to $50,000. (as captured on the receipt). Only one leaflet from the second volume was pulled out: a receipt for $60,000 for rent given on May 29, 2022 to one Mr. Antony.
3. Checks from the forged receipt records show that 51 people were defrauded. They were successful in fleeing with the money of 51 persons who were only looking for a place to reside.
4. A car with a forged license plate that does not match the vehicle.
5. They admitted to us that the automobile was leased and that they had also arrived with a taxi (which had two more men in it) piled up in front of the house. If we had given them the money, they would have given us a bogus receipt, abandoned the hired car, and escaped with the taxi.
6. The con artists had visited the premises the week before under the guise of seeking for a place to rent and took pictures of it.
7. Came back on Friday under the guise of taking another look since they wanted to rent the space for some of their company’s employees and wanted to make sure we liked it. (We were, after all, the employees.)
We escorted these two people to the police station and wrote our statements after the owner and police arrived. Be cautious! There are many men like this out there; some are elderly, young, and innocent; their appearances may deceive you, but be cautious when purchasing or renting. Make sure you’re not being conned by such persons by conducting your own due diligence.
Everyone, be safe!