Police on the prowl for 'franchise conman

"He certainly appeared to know what he was talking about, so I let him take some photographs inside the coffee shop, because he wanted to show me how he could put together a brochure to promote the franchise of my businesses." The brochure he produced was "stunning", said Louw…Unbeknown to Louw, the bogus lawyer went ahead and tried to market the fake franchises to unsuspecting investors.

IOL South Africa
February 7, 2005

Police on the prowl for 'franchise conman'
Johan Schronen

Two farmers paid a deposit of R300 000 for the "franchise" of a popular Burg Street Internet coffee shop - only to find they had been conned and the shop owner had no intention of franchising her business.

Marie Louw, owner of the Info Café, said a swindler had sold at least one "franchise" of her successful Internet coffee shop, which shares premises with a tourism information centre.

Police later told her that the man they were seeking was a convicted fraudster on parole.

She said the man had come into her café last year and showered her with compliments about the business.

"He said he was a lawyer, and he looked the part, driving a R700 000 car and dressing to match.

"The man told me I could easily launch a string of franchises based on my winning formula, and that he would help me do it.

"He certainly appeared to know what he was talking about, so I let him take some photographs inside the coffee shop, because he wanted to show me how he could put together a brochure to promote the franchise of my businesses."

The brochure he produced was "stunning", said Louw.

"It reflected the idea well and really punted the coffee shop brilliantly, but we had no arrangement at all."

Unbeknown to Louw, the bogus lawyer went ahead and tried to market the fake franchises to unsuspecting investors.

Louw said it was like "a huge blow to the head" when she realised what was happening.

That was last month, when two men dressed in khaki came into the café and ordered coffee.

"They were beaming with enthusiasm and said they'd arrived to discuss their new business, for which they had just paid a deposit of R300 000," Louw said.

"I almost fainted."

It turned out they were Worcester farmers raring to go with their new "franchise", which was to be based in a prime spot at the V&A Waterfront.

It was later established the premises were those of a chicken fast food outlet - which had no plans to move.

"The farmers were just as shocked as I was and that's when we raised the alarm with police," Louw said.

"Fortunately commercial crime unit detectives are based in a building near my shop, so help was at hand.

"The policemen checked the documents I had from the trickster and soon identified the suspect, who appeared to be a convicted fraudster."

Commercial crime unit police were not willing to comment, but a source at Worcester police, where the case has been registered, said it was believed that the man had tried to cheat at least six people into buying franchises in the con.

Police are still investigating the fraud.

Anyone who has been approached by someone selling franchises of the Info Café in Burg Street, Cape Town, is asked to phone the commercial crime unit at 021 424 8900.


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Risks: Follow the money: franchising re-distributes (not creates) wealth, Fraud, Outright scam, Convicted fraud artist, Police intervention, Wealth is meant to be re-distributed (not created), South Africa, 20050207 Police on

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