Fortune-Seekers Lose $2 Million

A pyramid scheme promising to double contributors’ money in days backfired for unsuspecting fortune-seekers who lost close to $2 million when the inevitable collapse occurred.

The suspected conmen are siblings Romeo (25) and Tinashe (29) Samhungu.

The brothers devised a plan to swindle people using the pyramid scheme and promised investors lucrative returns over very short periods of time.

Pyramid schemes work by giving older investors money from new investors and rely on far more newcomers joining at each step than people already in the scheme; they collapse when there are not enough newcomers.

To lure investors, the brothers allegedly advertised the scheme on social media platforms saying they were offering 100 percent profit to anyone who paid into their EcoCash account using their merchant code.

Romeo and Tinashe initially appeared in court on Tuesday before Mrs Barbra Mateko charged with fraud after they allegedly swindled a Harare woman, Gina Makosa, of $33 000.

They were granted $500 bail each.

The pair was however, back in court yesterday facing fresh charges of a similar nature.

They reportedly swindled several victims of $1 552 427 through the pyramid scheme before using the money to buy forex on the black market.

This time the brothers were not so lucky as they were remanded in custody to today for bail ruling after prosecutor Mr Lancelot Mutsokoti strongly opposed bail.

Mr Mutsokoti argued that the State had a strong case against the brothers who faced a serious offence and were likely to face a prison term if convicted, hence this would induce them to abscond.

Mr Mutsokoti added that the pair were also wanted by other police stations following reports by several others who have complained they were scammed.

In response, Romeo and Tinashe argued they were proper candidates for bail saying they were of fixed abode. They distanced themselves from the criminal act arguing they were also victims of the pyramid scheme having invested their money.

After hearing submissions from both parties, magistrate Mrs Barbra Mateko rolled over the matter to today for ruling.

When they appeared in court on Tuesday, the brothers were being accused of receiving $33 000 through their EcoCash merchant code 017223 from Makosa.

After depositing the money, Makosa is said to have called the two who promised to pay back her full amount plus profit the following day.

The pair, the court heard, switched off the mobile phones they were using to communicate with her and also blocked their merchant line. After one week, Makosa tried to call them but they were unreachable prompting her to make a police report.

On the fresh charges yesterday, it is alleged that between April 1 and 20, Romeo and Tinashe hatched a plan to defraud unsuspecting individuals and posted an advert on Facebook through their company Getrich Investments offering 100 percent profits to anyone who would deposit money through their EcoCash merchant number.

However, after receiving the money from several people, they allegedly switched off their mobile phones.

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