Fraudster scams Metro of R180 million
East London’s Gerrit Jan Crowther (53) was sentenced to eight years imprisonment for eleven counts of fraud that amounts to R180 million in East London. Between 2016 and 2017, Crowther impersonated an employee of Eskom and Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality and claimed to render a service of installing a device which reduces electricity consumption.
He marketed and sold his services to businesses in the Buffalo City area for an amount ranging from R3 000 to R66 000. Crowther did not install a device, but rather tampered with electricity meters. He was found guilty in October 2019. At the time he acknowledged his crimes and asked the court for mercy.
“Consequently, the municipality lost approximately R180 million as a result of this crime. Buffalo City reported this case to the Hawks as it noticed that the electricity bills of various businesses had dropped. The Serious Organised Crime Investigation commenced with its investigation during November 2016,” said Samkelo Ngwenya, spokesperson for BCMM.
He was arrested in June 2018 in the Western Cape and has been in custody ever since. He was sentenced last week by the same court.
“We welcome the judgement because we have been pursuing this matter for years. We constantly losing millions on electricity from tampering, especially from the local business community. If you have tampered with your meter, your days are numbered,” warned Ngwenya.
Meanwhile, the Metro is currently rolling out a smart metering system that will improve the accuracy of their billing system for water and electricity to manage usage and ensure cost effectivity. As part of the pilot, the Metro replaced meters in 189 industrial and commercial sites last year. The installation has already kicked off in Nahoon and other parts of East London and they require no payment from the consumer.
“Both projects will include the meter audit, changing of meter or installation of smart technology. The Consumer will get accurate monthly billing on water and electricity services, and can monitor their own consumption via a mobile app,” said Ngwenya.
Due to the high crime rate, the Municipality is asking consumers to take the necessary precautions to make sure that it’s the officials they are opening their doors. Municipal officials will wear identifiable attire, travelling in cars with the BCM sticker and will carry a municipal smart ID card with a photograph of the official, full names, designation and identity number with a municipal logo as the watermark.
The projects will be implemented in a phased approach, and during the implementation, representatives from the municipality will be performing site visits to gather information and therefore all customers are requested to cooperate with this process. “Prior to the site visits there will be communication with each respective business customer,” said Ngwenya.