Secretary stole to pay for trial

2010-09-07 00:00

A SECRETARY who defrauded Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife to the tune of R1,3 million last year was sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment, of which five years’ imprisonment was conditionally suspended yesterday.

Single mother Leona Amos (34) of Woodlands was awaiting trial in Gauteng on fraud charges involving more than R3 million when she committed the present offences, the court was told. She was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment in that case.

Regional court magistrate Chris van Vuuren yesterday ordered that the sentence he imposed on Amos should run concurrently with the sentence she is already serving.

Amos said in a statement she committed the crimes against EKZNW to fund the cost of her trial in Johannesburg and “things got out of hand”.

Amos admitted committing a total of 228 counts of fraud and theft against EKZNW, and expressed remorse for her actions.

However, Lionel Groenewald, a former police officer who is a private consultant and who was seconded to monitor internal fraud at EKZNW, told the court that within hours of being suspended and handed over to the police on January 29 this year, Amos went to Kay Makan and fetched R107 000 worth of goods already illegally on order.

They recovered a big-screen television set and four laptop computers in her car, and at her house found another four laptops and two television sets, he added.

Groenewald said Amos had already disposed of two more TVs, which were also recovered.

In all, police recovered close to R300 000 worth of the stolen property, some of it as a result of Amos’s co-operation, he said.

Amos was employed as a secretary to the manager of the hunting and extensions section of EKZNW. She had received training from EKZNW in financial matters and did extremely well in her studies, he said.

Around May last year, unbeknown to management, she managed to obtain four order books that she used illegally to order goods in the name of EKZNW, most of which she sold privately, said Groenewald. She falsified her manager’s signature on documents.

Fifty theft charges arose as a result of Amos having used an EKZNW letterhead on invoices issued to hunting entities, which contained her private banking details. The recipients deposited money into the account in the false belief they were paying EKZNW.

The charge sheet lists a variety of electrical goods, cameras and computer equipment fraudulently obtained by Amos as well as accommodation, flights and car hire. She also illegally ordered items like cigarettes, alcohol, and groceries from Makro and food platters from a caterer.

A LOCAL businessman, Neil Paparam, was sentenced to a fine of R10 000 (or two years’ imprisonment) plus three years’ imprisonment, which was conditionally suspended, on Friday after admitting he bought 19 notebook computers from Amos between June last year and January this year.

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