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The Jewish Report Editorial

Beware the wolf in sheep’s clothing

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When we write a story that “names and shames” someone, we don’t do it lightly. The SA Jewish Report isn’t in the naming and shaming game, as such.

We’re a community newspaper, and if there’s an event that we need to tell people about that might humiliate people, we put a great deal of time and energy into the decision whether to use the names concerned. It’s always about sharing knowledge that’s in the community’s interest, and what it has the right to know. We don’t shy away from the truth, but our purpose isn’t to harm.

I’m sure you remember the story about the wedding during the COVID-19 pandemic, in which the simcha went ahead without concern for spreading the virus. It was during one of the most severe waves of coronavirus. There were people involved that laughed at the virus and later were angry that we wrote about it. We own that decision, but we didn’t name those concerned because we didn’t want to cause them harm.

We were well aware that there wasn’t one person involved who purposely wanted to make anyone sick. These were good people who wanted their simcha to be as they dreamed it would be.

This week, on our front page, we bring you the story of Martin Levick, who appears not to care about taking people’s life savings under false pretences and leaving them with next to nothing.

Apparently, he doesn’t seem to care whether they are close friends, part of his community, or people who will suffer greatly by losing their money. In fact, in some of the voice notes he sent to the “close friends” he allegedly fleeced, he went on about sharing Shabboses and how wonderful they were to his mother, all the while taking their hard-earned money.

Levick, the former chief executive of Genesis Capital investment house, was sequestrated in 2019, and at the time faced criminal and civil legal action for fraud.

He had homes in Houghton in Johannesburg and Clifton Beach in Cape Town, and drove cars that others only dream of.

Around that time, many creditors came forward claiming that Levick owed them tens of millions of rands, according to News24 through his “desperate and dishonest conduct”, “trickery”, and “fraudulent behaviour”. At the time, he denied defrauding anyone.

His trick was to convince people with money to invest with him. At the time, many of those who lost money had a lot of money.

You would imagine that with his name all over the mainstream media and as a result of losing a great deal of what he made, Levick would have learned his lesson. One imagines he would have acknowledged what he had done, and made amends. The man was part of this community, and many within it wanted to believe the best in him. Many saw him as having taken from the rich, so they could find it in themselves to forgive him.

Only apparently, there was no amendment or apology.

Levick didn’t appear to see the error of his ways because unfortunately, it didn’t end there.

Instead, he decided it was okay to take from close friends, people who would trust him over what anyone said, people who believed they knew him well.

He took the very money they would be retiring on.

So, when we considered writing about Levick now, it was a no brainer. This man appears to be unrepentant and willing to con his own family friends out of their last cents.

As a newspaper, we feel strongly that we need to warn our community about such people. It’s incumbent on us to do what we can to ensure you don’t get conned.

If after you read this you still choose to go into business with Levick, that’s entirely up to you, but we believe it’s vital that we tell you what we know. And don’t for a moment think this is all of it. There are others who are still waiting to tell their story.

So, when people ask how we can cause such pain for the man’s family because they didn’t do anything wrong, our answer is, if Levick didn’t want his family to feel pain, he shouldn’t have done what he did.

He should never have blatantly lied to people about what he could do for them to enable them to retire comfortably, while leaving them with almost nothing.

I met the Michels family, and they are good people. Their only real failing is that they trusted Levick implicitly.

I do understand that sometimes there are people like the notorious Tinder Swindler, who make life look gilded. It looks so easy and spectacular that it is easy to get caught up in what they appear to offer. Few don’t want to live the high life. Few would turn down making money easily, with no hard work involved.

However, so often, we have to wake up and realise that nothing comes from nothing, no matter how much someone tries to make you believe that it does.

Con artists are a dime a dozen. Not all of them have the same ability to win people over and get them to hand over their money, however.

But we all need to take care that as money becomes tighter and harder to come by, we look after what we have. It’s easy to say, “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth”, but I’m pleading with you not to do that.

We have many reputable and trustworthy financial advisors within our community, ask for help before handing over money.

Levick isn’t alone out there. Too many are trying to make a quick buck, some smarter or not so smart.

I’m no expert, but I caution us all not to get taken in, and if someone warns us to be careful of someone or a deal that looks too good to be true, trust them. Rather get your 5% interest and keep your money until your old age than lose it all in the hope of millions.

Shabbat Shalom!

Peta Krost

Editor

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