A slick suspected conman, who made a Houdini-like escape from custody in Port Elizabeth two weeks ago, was nabbed in East London after allegedly trying to con another seller on Gumtree.
Fraud accused Mark Michaels, 30, left behind a trail of victims of his alleged schemes. In each case, the same method was used. The Hawks confirmed yesterday that Michaels, who also goes by the alias “Kenton Marks”, was arrested in East London on Saturday night.
The Capetonian is being held at the Cambridge police station but has not yet been officially charged.
Hawks spokeswoman Anathi Damane said Michaels would appear in the East London Magistrate’s Court soon. It was likely he would then be transferred back to Port Elizabeth to face additional charges here.
Michaels disappeared from the dock in the Port Elizabeth Magistrate’s Court, where he had been waiting to appear for fraud, on March 3.
Yesterday, a sales technician from Gonubie alleged that just days after Michaels escaped he had tried to con him out of R160 000.
Michaels had responded to his advert on Gumtree for the sale of a BMW 125i.
The seller, 33, who did not want to be named as he was worried that Michaels might have accomplices, said he had met Michaels on Wednesday last week and, on Michaels’ suggestion, had gone to the Fleet Street police station to draw up a sales agreement, a copy of which The Herald has seen.
“He said his cellphone battery was flat and asked to use my phone to EFT the money.”
The man said he had then received an SMS, purportedly from First National Bank, showing that the R160 000 was in his account.
“I tried to log into my internet banking, just to double-check, but battled to connect,” he said. “I had no reason to doubt him.
“I had received an SMS from my bank and he was the one who suggested we meet at the police station – I mean, what kind of a crook would do that?”
But the man said he became worried the following day when the money had still not reflected in his account.
“He kept promising to get a copy of his ID to me, but never did,” he said.
He tried calling Michaels repeatedly to tell him to return the vehicle, but his calls went unanswered.
A few days later, one of the man’s friends called and told him that he had also been contacted via Gumtree by a “Kenton Marks”, wanting to buy a vehicle.
“I asked my friend to arrange to meet him at the Fleet Street police station so that I could try to get my car back,” the man said. “He [Michaels] arrived in my car.” The number plate had been removed. After the man got the police involved, Michaels returned his car.
However, the man had to sign an affidavit promising that if the money did appear in his account, he would return it. The man said that on Saturday night, he was contacted by another East London resident, who asked when the R160 000 would be back in Michaels’ account.
“He told me that this person, Kenton, wanted to buy his vehicle but claimed he would only be able to pay for it when I transferred the R160 000 I apparently owed him.
“I immediately warned him that it was [an alleged] scam and told him to arrange to meet [Michaels] at the Cambridge police station.”
On his arrival at the police station, Michaels was arrested.
The man said he had subsequently browsed his phone’s internet search history and had come across a website called SMSS, used to create SMSes.
He believes this was how Michaels created a message to look like a bank notification.