A total of 17 people have now been arrested in connection with a countrywide social grant fraud syndicate worth R35 million.
And the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigations (the Hawks) says a Cape woman, who was nabbed near the Cape Town International Airport, is the mastermind behind the scam.
She is among 14 suspects the Hawks arrested on Friday morning, believed to be involved with creating dummy accounts to receive Sassa grants.
Eight Sassa officials were nabbed in Matlosane, Tlokwe and Krugersdorp.
All are employed in the Grants Administration Department of the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) and are responsible for capturing and verifying social grants on Sassa’s SOCPEN system.
On Friday night, one more person was arrested in a “boiler room” in Scottsburgh, KwaZulu-Natal, where fraudulent IDs were manufactured.
In Cape Town, the alleged mastermind, two other women and three men were nabbed.
The last two officials of the Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) were arrested on Saturday evening in Cape Town.
The suspects may not be identified until their first appearance in the Bellville Specialised Commercial Crimes today.
The arrests come after a joint operation between the Hawks, police and the Fraud Management and Compliance Department (FMCD), a department within Sassa.
Hawks spokesperson, Major Robert Netshiunda, says the syndicate operates nationally, with more than 500 identity fraud-related cases.
Robert says: “This syndicate is implicated in having defrauded Sassa of more than R2.3 million involving more than 400 social grants.”
“This syndicate forms part of a broader on-going criminal investigation involving more than 4776 fraudulent social grants amounting to more than R34.7 million identified to date.”
Sassa Executive Manager in the Western Cape, Bandile Maqutuka, says the investigations have been coming on “for a long time”.
“These national arrests are just a small part of the hard work we do. Our focus remains as always in preventing these kind of crimes and creating a controlled and safe means for our beneficiaries to receive their grants,” Bandile says.
National general manager for the FMCD, Renay Ogle, says it’s been a good few months for her department.
“We completed our internal investigation in September 2015 and contacted SAPS and the Hawks, making up our task team. We have made tremendous progress and will continue to strike at the heart of these organised crimes within Sassa,” she says proudly.