Employee defrauded Gold Circle

2013-08-15 00:00

A FORMER Gold Circle employee has been sentenced to three years’ correctional supervision, ordered to make a R2 000 monthly contribution for five years, and is also facing periodic imprisonment.

Lance Benson (50) was yesterday convicted of six counts of fraud in the Commercial Crimes Court in Durban. The charges concern a total of more than R1 million. He pleaded guilty to all the charges.

Benson defrauded the company of the money while working as an editor of Parade Magazine, a horse racing publication distributed by Gold Circle, from 2006 to May 2009.

He was responsible for publishing and distributing the magazine.

Benson defrauded the company by withdrawing money from the petty cash ostensibly to pay freelancers, but pocketed it for himself.

Benson also forged invoices and inflated the prices for freelancers who produced content for the magazine.

• According to the charge sheet, from July 10, 2006, to March 5, 2009, Benson fraudulently misrepresented to Golden Circle that the sum of R43 740, which he withdrew from the petty cash, was to pay a columnist for articles she had produced for the magazine. He also forged invoices in the columnist’s name to reinforce the false impression that she had written articles for the magazine.

• From October 6, 2008, to February 6, 2009, he again withdrew R8 060 to “pay” a freelancer for his “contribution”.

• From October 24, 2007, to May 22, 2008, he withdrew R8 400 ostensibly to make a payment to a publisher.

• From October 31, 2007, to 2009, he withdrew R2 070 to pay a publisher and courier service.

• From July 1, 2007, to 2009, he withdrew R14 700 to pay a publisher, but only R9 400 was due to this publisher.

• From 2007 to March 2009, he forged invoices to the value of just over R1 million for the postage and delivery of magazines performed by a distributor and courier service. The address and bank account number provided did not match the details of the distributor’s business, but it emerged they were the address and banking details of a relative of Benson’s.

He was previously also convicted of fraud in 1996, for which he was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment, of which two years were suspended.

Benson, a father of three, said he is still employed in the racing industry as a freelancer and earns R10 000 a month. He asked for a lighter sentence because he said his four-year-old child depends on him.

Reading her client’s affidavit, Benson’s lawyer Nonhlanhla Kunene said he knew all the time that the contributors on whose behalf he claimed fees had not produced articles for the magazine.

Magistrate S. Maphumulo said employees need to be loyal and said Benson had abused Gold Circle’s trust.

“Businesses rely on employees to be loyal. And you didn’t commit this crime because of need … because you earned a salary.

“We must protect businesses in order for them to thrive, and not bite the hand that feeds us. The business suffered a lot while you and your family benefited,” Maphumulo told Benson.

He was ordered to do community service.

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