The Hawks searched prisons in Pretoria to find inmates behind an extortion scam with hidden cellphones. PHOTO: Hawks

How inmates impersonated cops to scam people, while in their prison cells

An in-depth investigation by the Hawks led to the discovery of a mass syndicate run by inmates in Pretoria’s prisons.


The Hawks searched prisons in Pretoria to find inmates behind an extortion scam with hidden cellphones. PHOTO: Hawks

From their prison cells in Pretoria’s Correctional Service facilities, a group of inmates were found with 36 cellphones. These four convicted inmates were actually running an extortion syndicate by pretending to be police officers – right from inside their prison cells.


The Hawks had been receiving information about corrupt police officers who are extorting money from men who sought services on an underground online escort agency.

These men would later be informed by the supposed police officers that a case of rape and fraud was opened against them. The reason, the victims reported, was that they used fake money to pay the sex workers, said Hawks spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Philani Nkwalase.

“They would also present a fake warrant of arrest through WhatsApp and demand payment to ensure that the police along with the prosecutor make the cases disappear.”

Lieutenant Colonel Philani Nkwalase

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The inmates targeted men who sought services from an online escourt agent and would extort money from them. PHOTO: Hawks


The Hawks conducted an in-depth investigation into the complaints. It was revealed that the syndicate was run by four inmates with cellphones.

These inmates posed as police officers by taking the names and photos of unsuspecting police officers from their social media profiles, said Nkwalase.

“They further sourced a call log from an online base escort agency to continuously contact the victims who paid them, in fear of prosecution.”

Between May and August 2022, the four scamming inmates received a total of R1.32 million.

“The total amounts of R760 000 and R560 000 had been paid into two separate accounts which were provided to the victims to deposit the money.”

Lieutenant Colonel Philani Nkwalase

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The Hawks’ Serious Corruption Investigation team in Gauteng took action on Thursday night.

A multidisciplinary team made up of the Emergency Support Team from the Gauteng Department of Correctional Services executed a joint operation. They targeted Odi and Baviaanspoort Correctional Centres in Mabopane and Pretoria simultaneously.

“The operation was aimed at conducting a cybercrime search and seizure as well as executing warrants of arrest (J50) to four convicted inmates on an assortment of charges that include extortion, impersonation of a police officer, money laundering, forgery and uttering.”

During the search operation, smart phones were found on each of the four suspects. Some were found in the soles of shoes, inside plug adaptors and stuck underneath side pedastals.

“A total of 36 cellphones, 19 chargers and other accessories were also found from other inmates in the same cells and were seized by the Department of Correctional Services’ Emergency Support Team.”

Lieutenant Colonel Philani Nkwalase

The Hawks Provincial Head in Gauteng, Major General Ebrahim Kadwa commended the team for the meticulous investigation.

He also applauded their collaborative efforts that ensure the successful arrest and seizure of items used in the commission of the crime.

“He further warned that those that use the services of sex-workers and willingly pay fake police to evade arrest will face corruption charges if they do not cooperate with the police investigation,” said Nkwalase.

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Anyone who has fallen prey to this kind of scam is encouraged to come forward. They can contact the detective Captain Jacques Loock on 082 778 5626.

“The four inmates between the ages of 26 and 32 will appear in Pretoria Magistrate Court on Monday 15 August 2022 and more arrests are imminent.”