Cocaine conman snuffed out

The infamous “cocaine conman” finally met his match today, in the form of a Wits law student, who managed to flip the script on the fraudster and “con a con”.

The scam-artist was nabbed by undercover officers on West Campus after a Witsie too smart to fall for the ruse alerted Campus Control.

[pullquote align=”right”]”He said that he was selling the guy cocaine worth R19 500, and that if I helped him he would give me R5000,”[/pullquote]

The approach

Solaneh Sibande was rushing over the Amic Deck bridge to a law lecture when a man fitting the muscular and tattooed description of the “cocaine conman” approached him, asking to use his cellphone.

Sibande said he immediately became suspicious when he noticed the man was looking intently at his cellphone, rather than his face, as he approached.

“I need a huge favour,” Sibande recalls the man saying. “I need to use your phone to call someone.”

Sibande said the man then ushered him to foyer outside the chamber of mines building.

“He told me not to panic. He was doing a deal with somebody inside the building. He said that he was selling the guy cocaine worth R19 500, and that if I helped him he would give me R5000,” Sibande said.

Who is fooling whom?

Sibande agreed and handed the man his phone. As the conman went through the motions of his well-rehearsed scam, pulling out a bag white powder as proof of the merchandise, Sibande twice tried to covertly alert students passing by of the situation without showing the conman that he was on to him.

“I had the Vuvuzela articles about this guy running through my head that time, but I didn’t want him to see that I knew what he was up to,” Sibande said.


Not Napping: Witsie Solaneh Sibande fears the “cocaine conman’s” accomplice might recognise his face. Photo: Mfuneko Toyana

Sibande said he kept the conman interested long enough for Campus Control to apprehend him by lying, saying he was rural boy from the homelands in Pietermaritzburg.

Out of options

Sibande said he realised that he run out of options when the conman asked for his cellphone again, and told him to fetch the bags of white powder that he had he hidden in a nearby flower bed, while the conman waited for the supposed customer with money.

“I balanced the equation right then,” Sibande said. Sibande asked to have his cellphone back for short while. When the conman handed it to him Sibande went to reception and put a call through to Campus Control.

Three undercover officers who had been monitoring the situation and had understood Sibande’s signal, swooped in and arrested the man.

Campus Control security liaison manager Lucky Khumela confirmed the arrest of the cocaine conman in an email, calling it the capture of a “big fish”.

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