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Petrol attendant to be sentenced for skimming device

A petrol attendant, formerly in the employ of Stellenberg Motors in Bellville, in Cape Town's northern suburbs, is to be sentenced on Wednesday for possession of a skimming device, used by a fraud syndicate to clone the bank cards of motorists filling up their cars with fuel.

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Mzimasi Bizwapi, 42, is also to be sentenced on a charge of conspiracy to commit fraud.

 

He appeared in the Bellville Specialised Commercial Crime Court on Tuesday, before magistrate Sabrina Sonnenberg.

 

A number of bank card "disputed transactions", triggered a bank investigation that ended with Bizwapi's arrest.

 

The quick arrival of the police at Stellenberg Motors, led to Bizwapi's arrest, in possession of an illegal bank card skimming device.

 

He also faced a number of charges involving violations of the Electronics and Communications Act, but was cleared of these after submissions by defence attorney Carika Esterhuizen.

 

The magistrate said Bizwapi had previously been out on warning, based on the legal presumption of innocence until proven guilty.

 

But, now that he had been found guilty, the presumption of innocence was no longer valid, she said.

 

For this reason, she revoked his warning to attend proceedings, and replaced it with R1,000 bail - despite the fact that he had no money.

 

The magistrate said Bizwapi had given various unlikely reasons for his possession of the device, one that it belonged to a friend who had given it to him for safe-keeping, and another that the skimmer had been in a wallet that he had "picked up" at a taxi rank.

 

If the court ruled his reason for possession of the device to be "reasonably possibly true", Bizwapi would have been entitled to an acquittal, but the reasons were so inherently improbable as to be not reasonably possibly true, and to be rejected as lies.

 

In the course of his trial, police captain Trevor Bailey told the court how three victims reporting "disputed transactions" to their banks, started the investigation, and at the end of the probe there were 11 victims.

 

Some of the victims were lucky enough to have reported disputed transactions in time, and suffered no financial losses, the captain said.

 

Questioned by the defence, the captain said the bank cards in question had been issued by Standard Bank, and that the lawful owners had all used their cards to pay for fuel at Stellenberg Motors.

 

According to the charge sheet, Bizwapi was arrested at the service station in December, 2014.

 

According to the charge sheet, the owner of Stellenberg Motors received complaints from customers who had fallen victim to fraudulent transactions, involving their bank cards.

 

The investigations revealed that the last lawful transactions with the bank cards had been at the filling station in question.

 

The garage proprietor notified Standard Bank's fraud investigator, Pieter Jordaan, who soon uncovered a bank card fraud syndicate, which included Bizwapi.

 

Prosecutor Jacques Smith told the court that the syndicate had placed Bizwapi in possession of the skimmer, and that Bizwapi's role was to use the skimmer to capture the data on the encoded magnetic strips of credit and debit cards, used by customers to pay for petrol.

 

The court heard that Bizwapi in fact sold the captured information to the person who supplied him with the skimmer.

 

In June 2014, the petrol station manager, Coreen Steyn, became suspicious of goings-on at the filling station, and alerted the police.

 

According to the charge sheet, a police official arrived soon afterwards and searched all the attendants on duty - and found the skimmer in Bizwapi's trouser pocket.

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