Student warns of con man using fake cocaine for scam

A Braamfontein student has warned others about being vigilant of a Nigerian con man who offers money in exchange for safeguarding his  fake cocaine.

Jabulani Makoko*, a student at the Auckland Park AFDA found himself in a scam earlier yesterday when he agreed to safeguard 2kg of what appeared to be cocaine.

Makoko said that he was sitting by the stairs of the building opposite the Pick n’ Pay on Jorissen Street, in Braamfontein, waiting for a friend.

After a while a well-dressed Nigerian man came up to him, saying he needed help.

“I believe him yeah! Cause hey man he has the money here and he has 2kg of coke, which you’re not gonna leave with anybody, that’s worth a lot of money! So I trust him.”

Makoko said the man explained that he desperately needed his phone to make a call to meet a ‘white dude’ who would be upstairs in the building.

“I believe him yeah! Cause hey man he has the money here and he has 2kg of coke, which you’re not gonna leave with anybody, that’s worth a lot of money! So I trust him,” said Makoko.

The man offered Makoko R500 to hold the cocaine which he would pay the student when he returned. Makoko says he was “desperate for the money man! I was broke. And the guy came up to me now and made it sound so legit, here’s R500 bucks in cold hard cash.”

Makoko then gave him his cellphone, and the Nigerian man made a phone call in front of Makoko. The Nigerian man then said he needed to move closer to wherever the ‘white man’ would be watching him and he moved closer towards the street.

Makoko now says that was ‘my biggest mistake.’

Makoko says he was too busy looking at the ‘coke’ anxious about what he had gotten himself into, and not so far away from him were two female metro cops. Makoko says that’s when he began to panic but decided to remain silent.

“What if this is something that could possibly go wrong and I’m implicated in this,” said Maloko.

After 20 minutes Makoko realised the man was gone and after 30 minutes Makoko said he began to believe that the man is not coming back. After an hour Makoko says, “That’s when it hit me that ok this guy is not coming back and maybe this is not real coke.”

When Makoko’s friend arrived he related the whole story to her and she said to him there’s no possible way that someone would leave that much cocaine with him.

After two hours Makoko checked the bag of cocaine to discover cake flour, he then called his phone and it had been switched off. Makoko said he had assumed the cocaine was real.

“[I didn’t] really look at it to analyse if its baking powder or the real deal. You just know if it’s a Nigerian dude, it’s got to be real.”

Makoko said he was still fearful when he left the bag of ‘cocaine’ where he had been sitting.

Makoko said that the same con happened to a friend in Milpark.

*Names have been changed.


‘Cocaine’ conman back on campus

WITS’ cocaine conman has struck again, this time swindling a student out of his Samsung Galaxy Note 3.

On Tuesday morning John Kelm* was approached by a man near the Planetarium at about 10:30am. Kelm said the man had a Nigerian accent and asked if he could use Kelm’s phone to call a friend to pick him up. The man made the phone call and told Kelm that his friend would call him back on Kelm’s phone.

After this, the man produced two small bags of “cocaine” and said that he was going to sell it to the man he had spoken to on the phone. The man then said he needed to take Kelm’s phone with him to go and meet his buyer, and that Kelm should hold onto the second bag of cocaine as proof that his phone would be returned.

Kelm refused the offer and the man responded by threatening him with a knife and then left with Kelm’s phone. He opened the packet to find that the “cocaine” was white flour. Kelm tried to run after the man, but he had fled.

The Conman

Kelm described the man as being 1.75 metres tall and very well built. He also had a tattoo on his right shoulder. Kelm reported the theft to Campus Control and was told a similar incident had happened on east campus two days prior.

“They described the man to me, and it was the exact description,” Kelm said. The clearly frustrated student said he did not understand how the man was able to get onto campus. “Why aren’t they (Campus Control) doing anything about it?” asked Kelm.

Campus Control head of investigations Michael Mahada told Wits Vuvuzela that the matter had been handed over to Hillbrow police and the white substance would be chemically analysed.

The con

Campus Control investigations officer Luvuyo Zitwana told Wits Vuvuzela that the cocaine con was increasingly common on campus with at least seven thefts of cellphones in the past year.

He said many more thefts likely go unreported by students. Wits Vuvuzela was shown security footage of the conman and of the actual cocaine con going down.

In the video, the conman is seen asking a student to borrow his phone. He then makes a phone call and waits for his ‘friend’ to call him back. In actual fact, the conman has called his own phone, set to silent and sitting in his own pocket.

He then slips his own phone out of his pocket and, with his hand hidden, calls back the victims phone. This makes it appear that entire phone conversation is legitimate. In the security footage Wits Vuvuzela viewed, the man is seen operating at John Moffat and Chamber of Mines.

Previous incidents

Last year, Wits Vuvuzela reported that “I’ve lost my phone” stories similar to the cocaine con were one of the popular methods of theft on campus.

The conmen target students with the latest cellphones, such as Apple iPhones and Samsung Galaxy phones. In one case, the white powdered substance a conman used was found to be mealie-meal.

At the time, it was estimated that 50% of those arrested for theft were Wits students. Theft at laundry facilities in residences was particularly common.

Campus Control also stressed that non-students who gained illegal entry were responsible for many of the crimes on campus.

Lost or stolen student cards should be reported and blocked, and students should refrain from swiping in non-students. *not his real name

Related articles: Campus control put brakes on thieves.

Ex-Witsie sentencecd to 15 years.


Ex-Witsie sentenced to 15 years for drug smuggling

A former Wits student was sentenced today to 15 years in a Thai prison for attempting to smuggle drugs.

Nolubabalo Nobanda was caught smuggling cocaine into Thailand after authorities noticed a powdery white substance coming out of her dreadlocks.

Around 1.5kgs of cocaine were found in the 23-year-olds’ dreadlocks, with an estimated street value of $150 000 dollars. Nobanda was carrying the drugs to Bangkok for a cartel based in Brazil.

Nolubabalo Nobanda

South Africa’s International Relations spokesperson Clayson Mayonela told TimesLive  that Nobanda was also fined R250 000, and that her term was reduced from 30 years to 15 because she complied with the police.

There was confusion when the story broke in December last year when Wits denied that Nobanda was a student, while her family and friends insisted she had attended the university.

University spokesperson Shirona Patel said in a statement; “Wits University would like to place on record that Ms Nolubabalo Nobanda, an alleged drug mule, was never registered as a student at Wits University.”

However it was later confirmed by Wits that Nobanda had in fact been enrolled in 2007.

Drug mules like Nobanda are often used as decoys for larger quantities of drugs, which go through customs unnoticed while authorities deal with the first mule. Nobanda told her parents in a letter that her friend, also carrying drugs, made it through customs unnoticed.

Legal steps have already been taken in the UK to give drug mules more lenient sentences, as the women who end up carrying the drugs are usually have no other option to pay off drug debts, or sometimes do not even know they are carrying drugs. Sentences have been reduced to five years, with mitigating factors to be taken into account by judges.

Due to international law, the mules are tried in the country they are arrested, which means Nobanda will have to serve her sentence in a Bangkok jail.

More than 600 South African drug mules are in foreign jails, according to Locked Up, a website dedicated to drawing attention to the plight of South Africans held in foreign prisons.

Click here to see a video from News24 about Nobanda’s sentencing