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Tongan scammer accused of sharing fake car importation videos to con victims in new twist

The public is concerned about a new version of a vehicle scam which appears to have hit the Tongan community.

A Tongan woman has been accused of setting up fake overseas vehicle importation videos to convince her victims to expect their vehicle shipments were underway from overseas.

However, the vehicles did not exist and the victims never received their vehicles or got their money back.

Lepeka Moala or Lepeka Fanua, of Tonga’s Vava’u islands has been accused of falsely recording herself making announcements over real video clips taken in car dealerships in Japan.

Police are reported to have charged Lepeka Moala or Lepeka Fanua, 27, and her associate ‘Ahake Tāufa, also known as ‘Ahake Tulahe, 42, of Ma’ofanga for allegedly scamming their victims out of TP$38,300 in June.

Lepeka and the authorities could not be reached for comment.

Kaniva News had been provided with some of the videos in question.

In one of the videos, a blue Honda Fit Hybrid was seen being showcased around in what appeared to be a dealership. During the display a voice-over spoken by a Tongan woman could be heard telling a customer by the name of Kalo to see that this was her vehicle.

In another video, a red Toyota Hilux ute was displayed being driven around in another dealership. During the showcase the same Tongan voice-over could be heard, but this time she told a customer that she was videoing from Japan and she wanted them to see that this was their vehicle ready to be shipped to Tonga.

One video appeared to show the woman riding in a car driven to a wharf where a large vessel was being loaded. The car ran inside the ship while the woman could be heard saying they were in the process of shipping the vehicles, but that particular shipment was for another country in the Pacific not Tonga.

Of all these video clips, which have been widely shared on Facebook this week, the Tongan woman who recorded the voice over never physically shows herself in the videos.

Some complainants, who appeared to be among the victims have taken to Facebook to vent their frustrations.

Some said they have found out that Lepeka was allegedly creating the false video pretending she was in Japan while at the same time she was still in Vava’u.

Some even posted their mobile phone numbers on social media and called on anybody who met Lepeka to call them.

The claims come after Police previously warned people to be wary of online car dealerships and to only deal with reputable businesses.

In 2021, a car dealer who took more than $59,950 in deposits for cars she never delivered was jailed for three years.

Malia Selupe was charged with five counts of obtaining money by false pretences and taking large deposits for cars she had advertised for sale, but never delivered.

She held the business out as being able to import motor vehicles from Japan through online bidding and sales.

A notorious car trader, Filimone To’aho, was given a two-year suspended jail sentence in 2021 after he failed to deliver 20 vehicles he had promised would be imported from Japan under the ownership of the owner of a finance company.

Similar scams have been reported in New Zealand, with stories in the new Zealand Herald reporting on people who had laid hefty deposits to online dealers to import cars from Japan that never turned up.

The Automobile Association of New Zealand said there were several early warning signs to watch out for with buyers or sellers, such as lack of personal contact details, an overseas location, unconventional payment methods and the urgency of the sale.

“Our advice is to avoid rushing into anything – these things can (and should) take time. Do your homework and ensure you carry out all the relevant history checks before buying a car – spending a little extra money short term can potentially save you a small fortune in the long run,” the AA said.

Kaniva News says:

If you have been scammed, you should contact the police immediately.

Here are some tips to avoid being scammed when buying a car online:

Only deal with reputable dealerships.

Do your research before you buy a car.

Be wary of any dealership that asks for money upfront.

Never wire money to someone you don’t know.

If you think you have been scammed, report it to the police.

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