Con artist ends up in jail

2014-04-03 00:00

PIETERMARITZBURG con artist Charlene Singh (29) has been effectively jailed for three years after admitting she stole several gold chains, collectively worth R145 000, while giving their three owners back massages.

A further four years’ imprisonment was conditionally suspended for three years.

Singh confessed that on three occasions during January this year she’d approached women in their homes on the pretext of selling them a back brace. She then gave the women a back massage, and whilst doing so, stole their jewellery.

Singh told regional court magistrate Raymond Kunene in a statement that she sold the chains and used the money to buy drugs.

She didn’t say how much she’d sold the chains for, but a source told The Witness she was paid a “pittance” for them.

The jewellery was never recovered because the chains had been melted down and were untraceable by the time Singh led police to the buyers.

Singh said in respect of two of the victims (Vishvani Maharaj of Northdale and Myeshwari Pillay of Newholmes), she succeeded in “slipping” the chains from their necks while giving them a massage.

She stole two gold chains worth R35 000 from Maharaj on January 14, and thali chains worth R25 000 from Pillay on January 18.

In respect of her third victim (Amladevi Hariparsad of Raisethorpe), she stole her 18-carat gold chain and pendant and a ladies’ mungalsutra chain worth R85 000 from a drawer when she “wasn’t paying attention”.

Thali and mungalsutra chains are “marital” chains worn by women from Tamil and Hindi communities respectively, and are presented as gifts to the brides on their wedding day.

Magistrate Kunene sentenced Singh to seven years’ imprisonment, of which four years was conditionally suspended, on each of the three counts of theft she pleaded guilty to.

However, Kunene ordered that the sentences all run concurrently.

Singh’s legal aid lawyer Nitesh Binnessarie and prosecutor Zinhle Mkhize both told the court that a jail sentence was neccessary so that Singh can get treatment in prison for her drug addiction.

Singh is a self-confessed heroin addict.

The court was only told yesterday that Singh has a previous conviction for housebreaking and theft dating back to 2001, for which she was given a suspended sentence coupled with 18 months’ correctional supervision.

The Witness has, however, previously reported that Singh was arrested and charged during 2012 with “conning” her way into the homes of elderly people in Pietermaritzburg and stealing their property.

These charges were later withdrawn by the prosecution because it was apparently too difficult for the elderly victims to testify.

While still facing those charges, Singh escaped from police by jumping out of the window of a police vehicle after a court appearance. She was re-arrested within an hour and later told a magistrate she had acted in that way because she needed a heroin fix.

Singh also pleaded guilty at that time to a charge of reckless and negligent driving for almost reversing over a policewoman, Captain Marina Jurgens, for which she received a suspended sentence of three years.

Binnessarie said Singh is not married but has two children to support.

He said she was remorseful for her actions, as shown by her guilty plea, and had helped the police with their investigations even though the stolen chains ultimately couldn’t be recovered.

He said drug addiction is accepted as being an illness, for which Singh is in need of help.

“She didn’t commit these thefts out of greed, but out of need for drugs,” he said.

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