SOUTH AFRICA: Hunting Down A Scammer

Timbo

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This is a brief frank and honest outline of my experience after being scammed by a South African “PH”, who disappeared with my US$15K and how I eventually managed to get him convicted. I must state here, that at the time in question (2011) there was an unrelated, legitimate PH, with the same surname and registered with PHASA. I wish to make it clear that this article is in no way directed at that legitimate, unrelated, PH.


In late 2010 I booked a hunt with the South African safari company “Hunting Africa Safari” for my first buffalo hunt. My son was also coming along as an observer. The “PH” appeared to be legitimate, having both SCI and PHASA logos, client testimonials, price lists, selection of packaged hunting deals, photographic gallery and a fully interactive hunting safari web site of the same appearance and quality as any legitimate operator. From his written invoice, the South African “PH” I was to hunt with resided at:


Mr Gerrie Du Preez,
PO Box 76246
Lynwood Ridge 0040
South Africa


With his physical business address located at:
724 Codonia Avenue
Waverley
Pretoria, Gauteng
South Africa


His online safari banking account and business name was: “GS DU PREEZ T/A HUNTING AFRICA SAFARI” was also located in Gauteng Pretoria. Everything so far, even the Pre-Safari Invoice he sent to me appeared legitimate. Throughout my emails and conversations with him he’d inform me of such usual up-country hunting irritations as: “I’m in Zim at the moment struggling to get a good internet connection”…”and I’m losing calls as once you answer there’s no connection at all” - all good indicators of a working PH contacting me as and when during hunts with other clients. At no time did he inform me he was a sub-contractor, or anything else but a bona fide owner/operator Professional Hunter. Neither did I ever find out if he actually ever had qualified as a PH. So not having hunted DG before, I paid the required fees for my 10yr old son and I – US$15K – and happily awaited for our May 2011 buffalo and plains game hunt to commence.


Professionally I’m a psychiatric nurse –in reality a shit, low-paying dangerous profession that isn’t as glamourous as it sounds. As such I was no better than a nightclub bouncer, and instead of throwing aggressive patrons out, I just fought to restrain patients, accuphase them and put them into seclusion. To get out of this risky situation - perforce daily fighting the homicidal, drug-induced and/or floridly psychotic patients (including convicted murderers) - I was also putting myself through University to seek promotion. In this I used to work 17-hour shifts in the only dedicated mental health hospital in my State. But it was a gamble I was taking to achieve my career plans. I relate all this because the inevitable happened which set off this whole saga. One night while my colleague and I were in charge of a locked ward with 22 acute patients, we were both opportunistically attacked. As the younger, fitter nurse, I was targeted first as the patient wanted me incapacitated so to deal with my older colleague uninterrupted. He later stated his intent was to kill us once he’d had us both on the ground. In the attack I was concussed and temporarily blinded – amongst other injuries, and could hear my colleague screaming. So by sound and feel I fought the patient alone for 20 minutes, successfully saving my colleague. Both of us were hospitalised: unfortunately a result I later lost both my academic standing and my (then) job.


Sometime later during that month I contacted Gerrie and told him the situation and what can we do as regards the hunt. He expressed his commiseration over what had occurred, and over the course of a number of emails we agreed to defer the hunt, as fully paid, over to the following season. I then put this to the back of my mind and got on with the business of recovery.


Buy August, after repeated and unsuccessful attempts to contact Gerrie by phone, email, internet, postal letter and even enlisting the help of a well-known Zimbabwean PH – Gerrie had simply disappeared!! I discovered his internet site was shut down, his emails bounced back and his phones – when answered - were by people unconnected to Gerry who had simply been issued with his number. I must admit, I was at a pretty low point at this point and was so embarrassed and humiliated that I hadn’t even told my son the truth now dawning on me - I just couldn’t tell him, but on one occasion I remember him putting his arm around me saying: ”It’s going to be alright Dad!”


After fruitlessly searching along these avenues for responses, and even after emailing a well-known international hunter with bags of African hunting experience for some advice or guidance (I’m STILL waiting for their response), I then decided on a top to bottom approach. I then contacted:


Interpol: I made my report of the facts and their response was to put out a general Interpol alert for him. This ensured that Gerrie could not leave SA whilst it was in force (since he’d also stated that his wife was a well-known “gospel singer” with a large following in the US).


South African Embassy: Here I contacted the South African Embassy in my country and report the issue. They also took down the information and alerted their Government. As a precaution, I also contacted our Embassy in South Africa and put them in the picture as well.


Office of the President of South Africa: In a fit of bloody-mindedness I also contacted the Office of the President of South Africa, getting as far as an aide – both by phone and email – to make an official report.


South African Police Force: I made my report, and sent them copes of all the information I had. I figured that as a licensed “PH” with firearms (Gerrie stated he had a .375HH and a .458WM) the SAPS could easily locate him through the address on either his driver’s or firearms license. It came as a bit of a shock that the Police – either couldn’t or wouldn’t - find him. I even sent an Affidavit, complete with Appendices, which after a few months was rejected on the grounds that as it wasn’t declared under South African law, it would not be recognised in their Courts. I then shafted their objection by neatly submitting an “Apostille”. This is an internationally recognised legal document, endorsed under the Seal of The Hague Convention, which I then sent to the Commercial Crimes Investigations Branch in Pretoria. Now the SAPS had undisputable legal notice that monies had been taken and, under both Contract Law and which my financial records proved, that Gerrie still had (and has to this day!) a legal obligation to me in which he had since failed to meet, or make recompense.


PHASA: I contacted this organisation and over a long correspondence they admitted they had no power to control or regulate the SA safari industry in these matters. The only information I got from them was that the Gerrie Du Preez I was looking for wasn’t registered with them. BIG DEALL!! I responded by informing them that as a regulatory body they had some responsibility to protect their members and industry? I posed the scenario that as a nurse if I did something wrong the regulatory body in my country does police the industry and prosecutes offenders too! Much of their information comes from within the industry to weed out the fraudsters. In discussion, I also found it ludicrous that PHASA pulled registration fees from members, but did pretty much bugger all for them in return in this aspect! In my opinion to stand by and let the international reputation of the SA safari industry be tarnished like this, is simply negligent. When I extrapolated ahead, stating that I might as well go and set myself up in SA as a bogus PH and scam clients – they couldn’t respond either way. I ended by telling them they were nothing but “paper tigers!” PHASA has never refuted this observation. To be fair to PHASA, this exchange was transacted during 2011 and 2012: PHASA’s outlook may have changed since then – I don’t know – but I hope for the sake of the SA safari industry it has.


During all this I also spent time searching for information from anyone who may have contacted Gerrie. I contacted one of the clients through his testimonial page (that I happened to have copied before Gerrie closed it down) and was informed by that source that Gerrie had scammed an unknown identity within the Russian mafia. Further research also discovered a Zimbabwean PH and his UK client that had also been scammed to the tune of about US$4-5K. Though these two gents were delighted to know that I was pursuing Gerrie, both were reluctant to pursue the matter in their respective cases. Though nice guys, it doesn’t change my opinion that it’s just this sort of apathy that allows scammers to continue masquerading as legitimate PHs to scam both clients and genuine PHs.


Significantly my tenacious research I did locate Gerrie’s general whereabouts from his banking records. He had moved his financial account from Gauteng, Pretoria, to Louis Trichaardt, Limpopo. This also probably indicated his residential location as well. As soon as I was given this intelligence, I kindly passed it on to all relevant participants. On one occasion I even recall stating my belief to a SAPS brigadier that if the SAPS didn’t extract their digit from their collective orifices, the Russian mafia might find him first. Then the SAPS may just find Gerrie decomposing in a ditch up country.


There matters rested until the day Gerrie would unwittingly fall into the net.


Then out of the blue in 2014, I received a call from the South African Embassy in my country to contact the SAPS and the State Advocate’s Office in South Africa. I did, and it was music to my ears to hear that the SAPS had either arrested, or given an infringement to Gerrie. The result was that the outstanding issues that I’d reported and had placed around him had taken effect and he was compelled by law to answer for his actions.


After discussion with an Advocate (lawyer) with the Specialised Commercial Crime Unit in Pretoria, (where I discovered that the SAPS only had one deposit slip in their records - and not all four totalling the US$15K stolen from me) the case was immediately given a high priority. I was also to be flown and accommodated by the SA Government for a week to appear as a witness for the prosecution during the case.


Gerrie tried wriggling out by saying that his circumstances had changed, and he had “forgot” about the hunt and the money (about 206400 Rand) in his account that I’d paid him! Yet he was perfectly able, since then, to successfully manage a business out in the country. His financial records – submitted as evidence – also illustrated his spending this money! The case went well where all these facts were proven beyond a doubt. Also I don’t think the circumstances under which he’d defrauded me – incapacitated and hospitalised - didn’t win him much support either. I ended my evidence by stating that at no time neither had I given Gerrie the authority to use my money for anything else but to provide me with the buffalo hunt as contractually bound, nor did I authorise him to act as a sub-agent on my behalf. I further stated that at no time had he contacted me, not even by phone or postal letter, since May 2011 to discuss alternatives or to recompense my money.


Since his conviction, Gerrie’s now appealing the decision as, in my opinion, a tactic of attrition. Good luck!! As two can play at that game!! Because if the State Advocate’s case is frustrated I’ll just proceed with "Plan B": commence a private civil action. The more money he pours down the drain on fruitless appeals and legal representation, then it’s just all the more he’ll lose in the long run! All I want is my buffalo hunt as contractually agreed, or a refund. Simple! But Gerrie not being a hunter hasn’t realised one thing – I AM a hunter, and if there’s one thing that hunting has taught me over the years, it’s – NEVER GIVE UP PURSUING YOUR QUARRY!!
 
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gillettehunter

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Good for you. Put the screws to him and don't give up. Furthermore you might tip off the Russian Mafia fellow and see if he cares to join in so to speak now that you have done the hard work and found the scoundrel. Hope they jail him for a while.
Bruce
 

PHOENIX PHIL

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Well done, continued luck in your pursuit!
 

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Any pictures of the crook so everyone else can know who this guy is.

I Respect the Tenacity! :P Elmer Fudd:
 

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Hope your able to get your monies returned. Great determination in following through for six years!
 

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What a story! I’m sorry to hear of this ordeal. Congrats on being tenacious
 

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I hope both you and Gerrie get what is coming to you.

What do you currently do for a living?
 

Timbo

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I hope both you and Gerrie get what is coming to you.

What do you currently do for a living?
Thanks for your comments. Currently I'm looking for a change in career (anything bloody job will do as long as it pays just enough to live on while saving for the next hunt! ;)). I returned to psych nursing in 2013 but due to a bitch of a vindictive manageress (an anti-hunter) I was put straight back into acute. Two years later in a locked ward environment after fighting patients - ie: nearly having a knife slipped into my kidneys, being strangled, disarming them (chairs, knives, slivers of broken glass etc, etc) I'm just a tad jaded of it all. Got to be an easier way to earn a living! Started my degree all over again but, was forced to give up 4 units from completion. C'est la vie!!

But all I've ever wanted to do is to hunt a gnarly, heavy bossed, buffalo and put him on my wall! One day...............! :)
 

Timbo

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Good for you. Put the screws to him and don't give up. Furthermore you might tip off the Russian Mafia fellow and see if he cares to join in so to speak now that you have done the hard work and found the scoundrel. Hope they jail him for a while.
Bruce
Hi Bruce! Thanks for your reply. I did try locating him, but couldn't - those guys are hard to find. But I sent all the info I had to the Zim PH and his client. I figured that by using financial attrition on Gerrie - facing having to pay legal representation for 3 separate cases - would force him to settle rather than fight. The 2 others weren't interested.

Maybe the Russian guy will yet read my article and exact justice? Hope springs eternal!!
 

Timbo

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Any pictures of the crook so everyone else can know who this guy is.

I Respect the Tenacity! :P Elmer Fudd:
I'll have a look for a photo, but from what I saw of him in Court, in my opinion he's a tropical sleaze. Just under medium height, balding, thin, runt-like in stature, dark brown greying hair and moustache with a shifty demeanour. In court it was hard not to bounce over and just smash the f@kc out of the bastard.

But thanks for your positive comments, means a lot. Cheers!
 

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Timbo I hope this all works out for you!
 

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Interesting read, there are scammers in ever aspect of life. When I went to my first SCI show I was overwhelmed by the amount of outfitters and how to separate the good from the bad. Luckily I met some very good people and have done 9 African safaris. Places like African Hunting make things a lot easier.

I hope you get the restitution that you are looking for, good job on going after this scammer.
 

Timbo

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Interesting read, there are scammers in ever aspect of life. When I went to my first SCI show I was overwhelmed by the amount of outfitters and how to separate the good from the bad. Luckily I met some very good people and have done 9 African safaris. Places like African Hunting make things a lot easier.

I hope you get the restitution that you are looking for, good job on going after this scammer.
I hope that in it's telling, those others unfortunately scammed can get an idea of what steps to take and things to do (ie: immediately lodge an Apostille to save time). Looking back, I wasted a lot of time following my nose, because I couldn't find anyone for guidance or assistance. In posting my experience in one article, AH members now have a plan of attack that IS successful if ever they get burnt.

By pursuing this guy I know I've put him down - and he'll think again about ever scamming another client!
 

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well timbo this years buff hunt will go a whole better then this mess you had to deal with.
 

Timbo

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well timbo this years buff hunt will go a whole better then this mess you had to deal with.
I know Bill! Thanks. Can't wait! :)
 

geoff rath

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I greatly admire your righteous tenacity, Timbo, and wish you a positive outcome. I reckon the ideal result would be that on the day after he settles his debt to you, a VERY big, nasty cantankerous Buff stomps him into mush. Not a Christian approach, but blokes like that don't qualify for any form of forgiveness.
Next beer is on me!
 

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Hopefully your perverseness pays off! Thanks for sharing the info on his company
 

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Possibly the most important end result in this matter, in addition to you receiving proper recompense is to make certain that this individual is never allowed to work as a PH or any form of employment in the industry. The single greatest exposure in this industry is forwarding large sums of money to people you basically don't know. Nothing will put cold water on this industry more than scammers. The penalty to protect potential clients must be severe, without it many hunters will simply refuse to take the risk.
 

Timbo

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Totally agree. Until I'm notified about the outcome of his appeal, he's still convicted under SA law. But SA like everywhere else has it's dark side, and unfortunately this is one aspect of that lurks in that shadow. I agree giving large amounts of money to people you don't know carries risk, but we all do it when we hand over our non-refundable deposits anyway: some non-refundable deposits being almost 50% of the cost of the hunt. As for penalties, preferably I'd think financial recompense is more equitable option: even if the guy had to take out a personal loan to do so. This adds to their long term financial burdens, which I believe is more of a deterrent than just sitting in a cell doing nothing at the tax-payers expense.

But I do believe the relevant authorities associated with the safari industry and the SAPS should take a more proactive stand. As I stated in the article, PHASA couldn't respond either way if I were to set myself up as a scammer and rip off clients. In my opinion the "cold water tap" can be closed to a trickle (at worst) - all it just is a bit of a concerted, and proactive, effort by those with vested interests. One measure may be for PHASA to set up a database, and request from PHs and clients of instances and details of scammers operating in the industry: show themselves as not tolerating this crime any longer - and then reporting and liaising with the Specialised Commercial Crime Unit. The SCCU has a high success rate in prosecutions, but they can't do a damn thing if the crime isn't first reported to them.
 

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Well done taking down this criminal.

Sadly, most won't pursue this course because it ends up being too much effort/ risk/ hassle. Considering the risk associated with that first deposit, it makes sense why many clients go back to the same outfitter/PH year after year- security in knowing that you'll get what you're paying for.

This also highlights the importance of AH.com for vetting outfitters and for knowing what to do if things go south.

Thank you for sharing.
 

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