Durban – The Hawks have arrested members of the 10111 call centre in Hilton who were allegedly tipping off certain ambulance services and tow truck drivers about incident scenes in exchange for hundreds of thousands of rands in kickbacks.
Seven call centre operators were arrested on Thursday along with the head of a prominent private Midlands-based paramedic service, who could face more than 150 counts of fraud. They were joined by one local tow truck operator. A KwaZulu-Natal EMRS paramedic was also arrested.
The Witness understands that more arrests are imminent after this bust, which is the culmination of an intensive two-year Hawks investigation.
Six call centre workers were arrested at the control room in Hillary Road, Hilton, on Thursday morning, while the other was arrested at Alexandra police station while attending a course.
The offices of the implicated private ambulance service, which cannot be identified until its owner has appeared in court, were raided on Thursday.
Suspicions have been rife for some time now that 10111 workers were colluding with certain ambulance services and tow truck operators for tip-offs to crime and accident scenes, and last September a consortium of tow truck operators handed in a memorandum to the head of the call centre detailing their grievances.
The Witness reported at the time that this apparent collusion was creating an uneven playing field in the ambulance and tow truck sectors, and fed-up tow truckers warned the situation might get violent if nothing was done.
Well-placed sources told The Witness that the Hawks investigators had obtained permission to tap the personal mobile phones of implicated 10111 operators and based on information received through that they began following a money trail.
This led investigators to a series of e-wallet payments allegedly made as kickbacks to the 10111 operators. The Witness was unable to pin down an exact figure for monies paid, but sources claimed it was in the hundreds of thousands of rands.
Each payment will constitute one count of fraud, sources said.
“It is actually illegal for the 10111 officials to have cell phones in the control room,” a source said. “They need to hand their cell phones in at the beginning of their shift,” the source said, saying that the officials carried personal phones in anyway and used them to tip off those they were in cahoots with.
“The officials would receive a call from the public for an incident. Instead of following procedure and phoning the public emergency response, they would phone [those they were in cahoots with] from their private cell phones and only give information out on air to police afterwards.”
This gave those in cahoots with the operators “a substantial amount of time” more to get to accidents and crime scenes than the police.
“In return, 10111 operators will get paid a certain amount for every patient [the private ambulance service] got from each accident scene as a little ‘bonus’.”
It was the same modus operandi for the tow trucker who is implicated.
The tow trucking fraternity was relieved at the news of the arrests.
“At least we can work in peace again. We can now make money properly. I haven’t towed a car in the last two weeks,” said one tower who submitted the memo last September.
Those arrested are expected to appear in court on Friday. The Witness