About 100 matriculants from around the country arrived in Plettenberg Bay at the weekend to discover they had been duped out of hundreds of thousands of rands in a sophisticated accommodation scam.
A search has now been launched for alleged con artist Rick Havemann, 49, with livid Plett ragers, parents and Plett residents determined to track him down.
They claim Havemann, who acted as a rental agent for some of Plett’s popular establishments, booked out some units up to six times for the same period.
A family paid R42 000 to secure accommodation during the Christmas and New Year period.
Plett tourism said by yesterday, 100 matriculants and holidaymakers had already come forward claiming to have been duped by Havemann, who has since gone on the run.
One by one, as party goers attempted to check into their guesthouses between Friday and yesterday, they were informed their units had already been rented out.
Havemann’s Ethos Property Management website has since been taken down and his cellphone goes straight to voicemail.
St Dominic’s Priory matriculant, Alexi Tsiotsiopoulos, 18, and seven friends lost their R10 000 deposit on what they thought was a self-catering unit at the luxury The River Lodge.
Tsiotsiopoulos said yesterday that he came across Havemann’s details on Gumtree while searching for accommodation for the popular Rage.
Most victims – who were then left scurrying for accommodation – said they had contacted Havemann via the Ethos webpage.
Lynn Gorin, of Cape Town, said she had twice fallen victim to Havemann.
“There was absolutely nothing to indicate this was a scam.
“He sent photographs of the accommodation and even requested we furnish him with our children’s emergency contact details in case something went wrong,” she said.
On Friday morning, when the youngsters left Cape Town for Plett, she attempted to phone Havemann to give him an estimated time of arrival. His phone was off.
Plett Tourism official Patty Butterworth said each of the victims had been encouraged to report a case of fraud to the police.
“We have calculated the losses at a minimum of R10 000 per student, in addition to the holidaymakers who lost their deposits on accommodation.”
A few homeowners offered to accommodate stranded students, while local businesses donated money towards their cause.
The Plett Rage organisers put up tents with mattresses to accommodate between 40 and 50 stranded victims.
Plett Rage co-owner Ronen Klugman said this was the first time in the 17 years of the event’s existence that something like this had happened.
Amber Luck, 18, of East London, and her friends lost a total of R34 500, while Annette Davis, 51, of Cape Town, said she was desperately searching for new accommodation for her family for New Year after she was informed of the alleged scam via Facebook.
“What made everything seem so real was that when I inquired about accommodation on certain dates, he told me he was fully booked,” Davis said.
Bell said they were angry that Havemann had listed the shop as his Ethos address and had since started a Facebook page, “Scammer-help find this Guy”, to try track him down.
Police spokesman Captain Malcolm Pojie confirmed that the matter had been reported to Plettenberg Bay police and was under investigation.
He said that while the suspect was known to police, he had not yet been arrested.
Read full story: http://www.heraldlive.co.za/news/2016/12/05/outrage-plett-scam/