By Nomvelo Siziba
Police have arrested five people believed to be part of a syndicate that has been fraudulently buying groceries using forged Ecocash messages.
Bhekinkosi Ngwenya, Mlungisi Mpala, Mqondisi Mpofu, Gracious Tshuma, whose ages were not given but reside in Jambezi outside Victoria Falls, and William Masuku (32) of Mkhosana suburb committed the offences between April and last month.
The five would go to shops in Victoria Falls and Jambezi with fake Ecocash messages bearing details of the shop and pretend to transact before being given groceries.
Ngwenya, Mpala, Mpofu and Tshuma were arrested after one of the shops noticed anomalies after requesting for an Ecocash print-out.
The five appeared separately before Victoria Falls magistrate Ms Rangarirai Gakanje to answer to charges of fraud.
Mpala, Mpofu and Tshuma pleaded guilty and were each sentenced to 10 months in jail of which two months were suspended on condition of good behaviour while eight months were commuted to 244 hours of community service at Ndimakule Primary School in Jambezi.
Ngwenya, who introduced the others to the con, pleaded not guilty but was convicted after full trial.
He was also sentenced to 10 months in jail.
Two months were suspended on condition of good behaviour, seven months on condition he completes 244 hours of community service while the remaining one month was suspended on condition that he restitutes RTGS$73.
The fifth member of the gang Masuku was arrested after he bought goods worth RTGS$220 at a shop in Victoria Falls using the same modus operandi.
He pleaded not guilty and was convicted after full trial.
The magistrate sentenced Masuku to nine months in prison before suspending three months on condition of good behaviour.
Six months were suspended on condition that he performs 210 hours of community service at Chamabondo Primary School.
The State case was that Ngwenya approached Mpala, Mpofu and Tshuma while drinking beer at Banyani Store in Jambezi and told them that he had a way of editing Ecocash messages and present them to a shopkeeper as if they are genuine.
Ngwenya bragged that he had been using the modus operandi for a long time hence he wanted to train his friends too.
The four bought beer for RTGS$73 using the fraudulent method, the court heard.
Masuku duped Sonny Tuckshop in Victoria Falls.
“On the 11th of September Masuku went to Sonny Tuckshop where he bought groceries before showing the shopkeeper an Ecocash message purporting to have transacted. The shopkeeper later noticed that no money had been sent,” said prosecutor Ms Sithabile Daka.
The matter was reported to the police leading to Masuku’s arrest. The Chronicle