Advocate gets suspended sentence for Legal Aid fraud

2014-09-26 09:35

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Cape Town - An advocate who twice claimed fees from Legal Aid SA for work not done was given a five-year suspended prison sentence on Thursday, and ordered to repay R23 464.

Motlatsi Ishmail Pitlele, 43, pleaded guilty to two counts of fraud, in plea-bargain proceedings before magistrate Sabrina Sonnenberg, in the Bellville Specialised Commercial Crime Court in Cape Town.

Anyone convicted of fraud has also to be declared unfit to possess a firearm, unless the court rules otherwise.

Defence counsel Chumani Giyose told the court that Pitlele owned a security company, which required him to visit various sites to ensure that guards were at their posts.

For this reason, he needed a firearm, and at Giyose's request the court ruled him not unfit to possess a firearm.

Giyose said the money that Pitlele had to repay Legal Aid would be paid from the security business.

Pitlele was sentenced to five years, suspended for five years, on condition that he repaid Legal Aid SA within a specified period of time.

House arrest, community service

In addition to the suspended sentence, Pitlele was sentenced to 18 months house arrest, and ordered, for the duration of the house arrest, to perform community service such as free cleaning and maintenance at the Mitchells Plain police charge office.

The magistrate warned him that was not allowed to consume liquor during the 18-month period.

Prosecutor Simone Liedeman said the sentence took into account that Pitlele had brought the legal fraternity into disrepute.

According to the charge sheet, Legal Aid SA engages legal practitioners in private practice to defend indigent persons in need of free legal representation, through the Judicare system.

Billing

Pitlele was engaged in July 2006, by the legal aid authorities, to represent an accused person in a Western Cape High Court criminal trial.

Pitlele billed the legal aid authorities in February 2007, for R11 577, and falsely specified that the trial had run from 12 to 27 February, and was still running.

The bill was approved, and payment made into his bank account.

The case was then allocated to another advocate, to complete the partly heard matter.

The second advocate finalised the case, and stated in his account that he had in fact started and finished the case, and that the matter was not partly heard when he took over, as fraudulently claimed by Pitlele.

On the second count, Pitlele similarly billed legal aid for R14 210, for work he had not done in the Western Cape High Court.

In the belief that he had in fact represented the second client, legal aid paid him R11 887.

Read more on:    legal aid sa  |  cape town  |  crime

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