Peter Matika, Senior Court Reporter
A 22-YEAR-OLD female bogus estate agent survived a custodial sentence after she was let off with a warning.
Loveness Jere, whose address is unknown, appeared before Bulawayo magistrate Ms Nomagugu Maphosa facing charges of operating as an estate agent without a licence or registration.
Jere was being charged for contravening section 60 (1) (a) of the Estate Agents Act, which criminalises operating an estate agent without a licence or registration.
She was operating under the name Loveness Accommodations Agency (L.A.A). It was stated Jere would pose as an estate and employment agent, fleecing dozens of desperate home- and job seekers of their hard-earned money.
According to the State, Jere was arrested by police under jurisdiction of the Estate Agent Council of Zimbabwe in Bulawayo. It was reported that Jere conducted her illicit business on the 4th floor of Sterling House, situated along Jason Moyo Street between Leopold Takawira and 8th Avenue.
“In March 2022 at the stated address Jere practised as an estate agent, where she advertised a two-roomed cottage on social media and accepted US$60 from one Isabel Dube to facilitate her to occupy the said cottage. However, she ran out of luck after Dube realised that she was a bogus agent and reported her,” read court records.
Jere admitted and pleaded guilty to the charge before Ms Maphosa.
In passing sentence, Ms Maphosa said the law considered Jere as a first-time offender and that she had reimbursed Dube. She said a custodial sentence would be harsh given the circumstances of her plea.
“In assessing the sentence, the court considers that Jere is a first-time offender. This is her first brush with the law, in addition she pleaded guilty to the charge and this is usually taken as a sign of remorse and contrition. It is well settled in the law that first-time offenders who plead guilty be treated with leniency and spared custodial sentences unless there are aggravating circumstances,” said Ms Maphosa.
“Furthermore, she is 22 and is considered to be a youthful offender and as such cannot meet the full wrath of the law. Lastly, she has a 1 year 9-month-old child.
Incarceration will not destroy her but the innocent child. It is above mitigatory factors that I find a wholly suspended sentence to be justifiable in the circumstances. It will deter her from committing future offences and at this point in time allow her to reform.”
Six months of Jere’s sentence were wholly suspended for five years on condition she does not commit a similar offence. If convicted again, she would serve a custodial sentence without an option to pay a fine.
Last year police launched a manhunt for a bogus estate agent Mpumelelo Mhlanga who had fleeced members of the public including a prominent businessman of more than US$200 000.
The same year the Estate Agents Council of Zimbabwe warned home seekers from dealing with bogus estate agents masquerading as part of their organisation.
Earlier this week, Knight Frank placed a public notice, warning the public from dealing with a bogus estate agent who had created a Knight Frank website, advertising non-existent and unavailable properties for leasing.
“The link can be accessed using a WhatsApp number 0789661364 and once in you are required to pay money into a bank account as registration and viewing fee.
The account is a Steward Bank registered 1020370668 and they also have accounts with other banks. Please be advised Knight Frank does not charge registration or viewing fees. Any such adverts are fake and should be ignored,” read the statement.