The Kroonstad Con Man rides again

Earlier this year, I wrote what became my most popular blog ever. The disastrous story of my stint in Poland, cut short by a South African confidence man, drew readership from every corner of the globe — my wonderful friends and family from social media circles, folks who worked with me in Warsaw, even my ex chimed in with some, er, thoughtful feedback.

What really surprised me though, was to watch the story go viral. Friends and family shared with their friends and family. Former coworkers reposted far and wide across the international teaching community this cautionary tale of what can go wrong in a career field where every few years, you enter a new job and country, often sight unseen. A stern reminder that while a working life overseas can be glamorous and wild, it’s also mined with disastrously unexpected pitfalls, ranging from bad bosses to scam schools to prison time.

Comments and emails rolled in like crazy from people who had been affected by Riaan’s sociopathic malfeasance — not just his exploits in Poland but also China, Taiwan, Mongolia, Vietnam, and his own home country of South Africa.

By February, I had mostly put the whole fiasco behind me. After all, I had landed relatively softly, working a full-time classroom gig in American Public. I had a car, an apartment, and looked forward to a new overseas contract set to start in August. That slippery, salacious Safa had wasted plenty of my time and energy already; I hadn’t the time nor interest to stay mad.

That was, until I saw this comment last week:

For months, I’d heard fleeting rumors of his whereabouts and speculations on his latest capers. This was the first solid lead I had on the bastard since he’d flown out of Warsaw’s Chopin International Airport, scot free.

At first, I gave the Linomtha website only a cursory glance. A few clicks later, I was deep down the rabbit hole. By all appearances, RD is up to his same old tricks. What follows is an analysis of this supposed company, based on what I have come to know of the human septic tank, Riaan Diedericks.

Let’s start with the company’s rich portfolio. It claims to be invested in construction, agriculture, livestock, and yes, education.

..or just construction and farming, according to another part of the same site.

Note in the above screen grab, the last sentence sort of trails off, as if the author were drunk and fell asleep while creating a bogus website.

Lest we think this is anything short of a legitimate construction firm, we’re provided pictures of sidewalks.

And lest we think this company is anything short of ‘yuge, we see the company logo photoshopped into images of Times Square and some Korean urban center (presumably sourced from Google Images).

By this point, there were many tell-tale signs of Riaan’s shoddy work. But what do I know about South Africa? Perhaps it’s acceptable for a tremendously successful, multifaceted, global company to host a website rife with clerical errors and broken links. I could not in good conscience go slandering a legitimate company. So I dug a little deeper.

A man by the name of “ARRT Masike” is reportedly the CEO of this company (a company that also does ‘events’ apparently). However, a search for the man on LinkedIn, Facebook, and the general Google of things produces nothing. (However, on LinkedIn I noticed a few people who worked for Linomtha Properties, which is an unrelated company.)

I should also note that many of the links on the Limontha site took me here:

There were other issues too, like this video link that doesn’t actually link to a video.

Navigating this nightmare website (sitemare?), I was sharply reminded of the last project to which I’d been assigned by Riaan at ISW: “fix” the school website. It was indeed a steaming hot mess, that website, full of broken links and broken promises. Led me to wonder, what’s Linomtha’s education site look like?

Oh. My. It’s the same damn website. Seriously, see this archive from the International School of Warsaw.

I mean, there are obviously some differences: geography, school logo, and color scheme. The giant buttons inviting us to Inquire, Visit, or Apply though, that’s straight off the old ISW site. (Spoiler alert: all three buttons take you to the same contact form). We see the copious use of stock photos; I imagined Riaan sweating buckets, seeking images of teachers and students huddled together in classrooms that don’t actually exist, a rich rainbow of pigmentation to reflect an authentically South African clientele. Probably the most glaring similarity was the bevy of links that took me here:

This suggests that, similar to the ISW website, Riaan took it live long before it was ready. Always pushing the marketing way ahead of the product, that guy!

The deeper I dug, the more tragic comedy surfaced. Note the block of text below. It’s full of pedagogical gobbledygook, the sort of language that would entrance potential parents whilst avoiding mention of any actual curriculum or… you know… substance. It sounded like the language you would read on just about any international school’s website.

A school like, oh, I don’t know… the International School of Modena, Italy.

But as I said, school often recycle the same key words and hot phrases. Probably just a coincidence. Except that I visited their admissions page…

And googled a random block of text and found this:

In fact, every single page I visited on the LEG SA site, I found duplicate blocks of text elsewhere on the internet — their mission and vision statements, their teacher job descriptions, admissions policy, their curriculum outline (which unsurprisingly says nothing about the actual content).

Probably the most deplorable intellectual property theft was of an right-minded program started by AIS Johannesburg, seen here:

..brazenly plagiarized on LEG SA’s site, here:

But it doesn’t stop at plagiarism. RD also loved big bubbly numbers. I’ll admit, they looked slick enough on the ISW page to make me think the school was legitimate, way back in 2018. Now I realize, as I first realized while attempting to “fix” the ISW site last October, that the numbers are based on nothing real.

I mean, look at the numbers below. No new school, especially one that has yet to open, could possibly boast 15 after-school activities. Especially not for such a small school with so few actual classes.

But parents wouldn’t necessarily think to do that math.

Ratio? Ration? Practically the same thing, right?

Then there’s this other thing he always did with ISW, and evidently continues to do with LEG SA. He speaks of a hypothetical future as if it were already the present. ISW’s site showed an architect’s graphical depiction of the school, alongside news the campus was all finished, just in need of some landscaping. LEG SA takes it a step further. Here is the alleged school:

And here is a blueprint, which outlines the same things we were promised at ISW. He even spells STE@M with the same annoying @ that he always preferred.

Then there’s another part of the website that claims the LEG SA group has not one but several schools, and Kroonstad is but the latest addition. However they also claim that all the schools are on one Stunning New Pristine Campus. Not sure how that works.

I could continue on with my rants. I really could. For days and weeks. There is so much dark comedy gold between the so-called Linomtha Group and their Education division that I could probably retire writing the airport novel. However, I’d rather the reader explore these pages on their own, while they’re still live. After all, RD never paid ISW’s bills for buses, cafeteria services, immigration lawyers, health insurance, or teachers, much less its web domain. No reason to think he’ll pay for the Linomtha site any longer than it takes him to scam a few investors.

What are his motives? We know RD has less options with every move he makes. Undoubtedly, he realizes he could be quickly compromised if he were to return to certain Asian countries, China in particular. And while the authorities surprisingly allowed him to flee Poland a free man, they may’ve still been gathering their paperwork. He might not be so lucky, were he to return. So naturally, he finds himself back in his home country, where he’s attempted to carve out a niche scam amongst the scammer communities of South Africa.

We can also assume he’s broke, after all this fleeing, which might suggest that this page on the Linomtha site is a bit of a nod and wink:

Way I see it, the best thing concerned people can do is to limit his options yet further. It’s clear from this page that he intends to rope in hapless investors, just as he did in Poland and elsewhere. If this little enterprise is brought down, then his fraudulent behavior will be noticed in South Africa, and then he won’t even have a place to call home. Call me conniving, but this man has ruined innumerable lives, and ostracization is a damning, fitting punishment long practiced by human societies.

Spitballing ideas, I suggest people visit the site and express interest either as prospective parents or potential teacher hires. Or let him know you’re keen to invest in a “franchise school.” Make him think he’s got some inertia going, then nobody show up for the party.

Or, we launch a phone campaign. There is one single contact number on the Education page (+27 087 152 0543) that actually works and as I recently learned, it is manned night and day. By Riaan. I know this because I called it, and he answered… at 10pm South Africa time. Drunk, of course. Anybody have a robo-dialler? Wouldn’t it be fun if the man never slept again? Just spitballing ideas.

Maybe I’m being petty. But some bastards got to pay. Any ideas, hivemind?

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