By Tawanda Homba
A syndicate that terrorised Masvingo and many parts of the country, swindling job seekers looking for nurse-training places of more than $60 000 by using fraudulently acquired ecocash numbers to receive bribes has been busted by the Police.
Six suspects including an Econet employee and two nurses were arrested and they appeared in court on Monday. Police believe more suspects could be on the run.
Patricia Magazini, the suspected ring leader based in Bikita and Beauty Dzviti, an Econet employee based at Jerera Growth Point in Zaka were given stiff bail of $300 each and are to appear on December 29, 2017 before Masvingo Magistrate Peter Madiba while four others were released because Police detained them beyond the permissible 48 hours before taking them to court.
Some of the suspects are being represented by Owen Mafa of Mutendi Mudisi and Shumba Legal Practitioners and there are 55 complainants who have so far approached the Police.
Two suspects Jairos Mupamhadzi and Respina Manjeru are nurses at Silveira Mission Hospital in Bikita and Odzi Rural Health Centre, respectively and they are husband and wife.
The other suspects are Hebert Munyikwa, Martha Nyapokoto who stay in Bikita.
This case is probably the worst cyber crime committed in Masvingo where more than 55 job seekers were swindled of a minimum of $840 each through fraudulently registered Ecocash numbers.
Dzviti is accused of issuing out lines to the suspects without following procedures and ascertaining names, ID numbers and addresses. She is also accused of receiving a bribe from Magazini in order to facilitate the release of the lines.
The case became difficult for Police to unravel because the suspects used cellphone lines registered under false names and addresses to commit the crimes.
It is the State case that Magazini, Jairosi Mupamhadzi, Respina Manjeru, Munyikwa and Nyapokoto opened Econet lines using fictitious names and addresses with the help of Dzviti.
They then advertised nurse-training places at Masvingo Provincial and other hospitals on social media and The Herald and they used the fictitious Econet lines as their contact numbers.
The suspects demanded bribes of $840 from each of the applicants who expressed an interest in the places and they masqueraded and used names of senior nurses and doctors at Masvingo Provincial Hospital, the Provincial Medical Director’s offices and other clinics and hospitals.
The suspects also published a false list of successful candidates who were going to start their training programme in May 2018 and these names appeared in The Herald in September 2017.
The purpose of the publication was to hoodwink the general public into believing that the scheme was genuine. Many victims narrate heart-rending stories where their poor parents sold several beasts in order to raise money for the bribes.
Victims who soon realised that they were conned could not trace the culprits because the lines used were fraudulently registered and in some cases the lines were deactivated after they were used to swindle a number of people.
The crime was busted on December 15, 2017 when Police detective Power Gwande accompanied by a senior nurse at Masvingo Provincial Hospital who became worried that her name was consistently being used in the commission of the crime phoned one of the numbers pretending that they wanted a place and they were calling from Chipinge when they actually were in Masvingo.
They spoke to Magazini who asked them to meet her but later changed the meeting place . When the investigating team arrived in Masvingo Magazini tried to change the rendezvous again but said she had heavy luggage and pleaded with her to stop changing meeting places.
Detectives were then deployed at Chicken Inn and they closely monitored the movements of Magazini who was already there arrived and arrested Magazini as she was receiving the bribe money.
She was allegedly found with some of the lines that were used in the commission of the crime.
A search at her place revealed more evidence and it is then that she implicated the other five suspects including Dzviti. Masvingo Mirror