Coffee shop fraudster fined R30k

2012-05-25 18:01
Cape Town - A man with previous theft and fraud convictions who cheated an investor into buying shares in a non-existent mobile coffee shop franchise was sentenced to a R30 000 fine or 12 months in jail by a Cape Town court on Friday.

In addition, the Bellville Specialised Commercial Crime Court sentenced Michael Anthony Crause, 53, to two years in jail, conditionally suspended for five years, for the fraud involving R150 000.

Magistrate Amrith Chabillal said Crause had "led the court on a merry dance" with his version of why he had accepted R150 000 from businessman Mtunzi Malunga for shares in the de-registered close corporation, 2U Cafe.

Crause's "fanciful" explanation was that 2U Cafe was de-registered by mistake and that he had been unaware of the error when he received the R150 000.

Chabillal said Crause's criminal record justified a prison sentence for the current investment fraud, as urged by prosecutor Tracy Belelie.

‘Took advantage of man gullibility’

However, the court had "reluctantly agreed" with defence attorney Jolinda Vreugde to give Crause the option of a fine, on the grounds that the Malunga fraud had arisen from a business transaction that had turned out to be a bad venture.

Chabillal told Crause: "The court would have expected your victim, an experienced businessman, to have exercised due diligence before making the investment but, instead, he went into the venture blindly, and you took advantage of his gullibility. There can be no excuse for what you did."

Chabillal said the defence had correctly contended that Malunga had turned to the criminal justice system for redress, rather than look to the costly civil courts.

The court had seriously considered a compensation order for the repayment of the R150 000, as part of the suspended prison sentence, but it would have served no purpose because Crause was without income and unable to pay.

Chabillal added: "The circumstances compel the court to leave the victim to his own devices to get his money back."

Chabillal said the suspended jail sentence would allow Crause to stay out of prison, but warned him that the sentence would be put into operation if Crause were again convicted of theft or fraud within the five-year suspension period.
Read more on:    cape town  |  fraud

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