Hawks nail social grants fraud syndicate

Johannesburg – The Directorate for Priority Crime Investigations (Hawks), SA Police Service (SAPS) crime intelligence, the fraud management and compliance department of the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa), together with a private auditing and accounting firm on Friday arrested 14 people allegedly part of a massive social grants fraud syndicate operating within the Sassa grants system, the Hawks said.

“The syndicate operates inter-provincially and the operation is the biggest one to date,” Hawks spokesman Major Robert Netshiunda said.

More than 500 cases of ID fraud related to the fraudulent social grants were uncovered during the internal investigation.

Friday’s arrests were a first part of the “take-down of this syndicate and more arrests are imminent”, he said.

“This collective success was achieved through our consistent multi-disciplinary agency investigative approach that include Sassa’s fraud management and compliance department, the private auditing and accounting firm, DPCI (Hawks), SAPS crime intelligence, and the National Prosecuting Authority specialised commercial crime unit.”

The syndicate was implicated in having defrauded Sassa of more than R2.3 million involving more than 400 social grants.

“This syndicate forms part of a broader on-going criminal investigation involving more than 4776 fraudulent social grants amounting to more than R34.7 million identified to date. Eight Sassa officials and 14 Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) employees remain under investigation,” Netshiunda said.

Those arrested included eight Sassa officials employed at the Matlosane (five), Tlokwe (two), and Krugersdorp (one) Sassa local offices.

All these officials were employed in the grants administration department of Sassa and were responsible for capturing and verifying social grants on Sassa’s Socpen system, he said.

“Six members of the public, external from Sassa and CPS, were also arrested. Three females were arrested of which one female who is regarded as the mastermind were arrested close to the Cape Town international airport.

“The other two females were arrested in Khayelitsha [in Cape Town]. Three males were arrested in Philippi [in Cape Town].

While these arrests were taking place, the joint task team in KwaZulu-Natal conducted a search and seizure operation in Scottsburgh where fraudulent IDs were manufactured (also called a ‘boiler room’).

“The items found at the sites of arrests were laptops, scanners, copying machines, ID’s, copies of ID’s, ID templates, CPS enrolment machines, printers, electronic storage devices, bank cards, and Sassa cards,” Netshiunda said.

– African News Agency

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