'Con-woman' in a pickle after telling friends she was dying of listeriosis

'Conwoman’ told friends she was dying of listeriosis

17 November 2019 - 00:00 By Shain Germaner
Andrew and Colleen Lingwood.
Andrew and Colleen Lingwood.
Image: SUPPLIED

Colleen Lingwood lay in bed, speaking softly to the friends who had gathered at her living wake.

According to her former friend Corinna Tannian, she had told them she was dying of listeriosis-related organ failure.

Tannian said she and other tearful friends, seated around the bed, had been told Colleen had been taken off life support, and didn’t have long.

Fast-forward a year and, instead of succumbing to a deadly infection, Colleen and her husband, Andrew, are under arrest, charged with more than 100 counts of fraud.

The charges relate to soliciting donations for the treatment of her “illness”, as well as defrauding clients in her timeshare business and a rental scheme that is estimated to have robbed 141 complainants of at least R1.5m.

Tannian considered herself one of the Lingwoods’ friends, and was at the “farewell” at Colleen’s in-laws’ home in Weltevreden Park, Johannesburg, in December last year.

She is due to testify for the state against the Lingwoods. In her police statement, she said Colleen didn’t appear too ill.

“I was surprised Colleen was doing so well, considering the months of hearing how close she was to dying.”

Her statement detailed how a few months later, in March, she received a call from Colleen, saying she was in dire need of surgery and had to pay the surgeon, who was flying to Johannesburg to perform it.

Tannian said she deposited R5,000 into the Lingwoods’ private account. Days later, when the surgery still hadn’t gone ahead, Tannian became suspicious.

It was only months later, in October, that she learnt that dozens of criminal cases had been opened against the couple at the Sandton police station — not just relating to the illness donations, but also against Colleen’s company, Genie in a Phone, which promised reduced deals on timeshare vacations.

Another complainant, Dionne McNellie, in her statement to the police, said Colleen would promise to make bookings at resorts. While she would book them, she would not pay the balance of the money she had taken from her clients.

McNellie said that due to a series of luxury holidays she had booked for herself, relatives and her pastor, and having donated R21,000 to Colleen’s “surgery”, she was robbed of at least R170,000. McNellie is also due to testify.

“I feel like I’ve failed my family,” she said of the financial strain. She said she was hurt by Colleen’s claims of a terminal illness. “It was during the last listeriosis scare, people were dying, how can you play with people like that?”

Nan-Chien Huang told the Sunday Times she had been defrauded after Colleen was assigned as an agent to rent out her property in Douglasdale in 2017. Colleen insisted the lease agreement was faulty and that Huang needed to evict her tenants.

Huang said Colleen told her that if she accepted rent from the tenants, the lease agreement would be legally binding, and that she should return the rent each month until they were evicted.

The rental, however, was allegedly going to an account controlled by the Lingwoods, and the supposed eviction process continued until August this year. It was after getting a private investigator involved that Huang laid a complaint with the police in October. Huang said she had lost more than R100,000.

“It’s ridiculous that it went on as long as it did. I’m under huge financial strain now.”

On Monday, the couple appeared at the Randburg magistrate’s court, where it was revealed that the prosecutor, Wessels Schiebler, had received 26 police dockets and was expecting that number to double by the time they appear again this week.

A Facebook group called “Have you been scammed by Colleen Lingwood” has reached almost 400 members since it was started at the beginning of November, with many people reporting stories of fraud.

The Lingwoods’ lawyer, Herman de Klerk, did not respond to detailed questions.

Would you like to comment on this article or view other readers' comments? Register (it’s quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

X