Law firm secretary stole R1,2 million

2012-03-12 00:00

A FORMER conveyancing secretary for Stowell & Company pleaded guilty on Friday to theft of R1,2 million over a three-year period from July 2008 to July 2011.

In a plea explanation Candida du Plessis (39) said she started to steal from the firm in order to pay off a personal debt with a loan shark.

She admitted stealing a total of R1 212 526,51.

Regional court magistrate Jennifer Anthoo convicted Du Plessis based on her written plea explanation to the court.

The case was postponed until March 14 for evidence by a psychologist, who will testify in mitigation of sentence on behalf of Du Plessis, and a correctional supervision official.

The prosecution indicated the state would call at least two witnesses.

In a statement read to the court by her advocate, Gideon Scheltema SC, Du Plessis said one of her duties as a conveyancing secretary for Stowell & Company was to request payments from the firm’s trust account or business account in order to pay disbursements to creditors.

A director of the law firm had to authorise the payments in writing.

“Over a period of years I realised that directors of Stowell & Company authorised payments to creditors in respect of conveyancing costs without checking the validity of the requests for such payments submitted to them by me.

“I realised that the system of payment of disbursements in respect of bond registration fees was open to abuse and misappropriation,” said Du Plessis.

She said in July in 2008 she had “succumbed to temptation” and started misappropriating trust funds to pay her personal debt with a loan shark, Jason Carlyle, who operated as “The Loan Man”.

On February 22, 2010, she started to deposit stolen money into another account she opened at Absa bank for her personal benefit, under the name Twiga Services.

Du Plessis continued misappropriating funds until she went on sick leave on 22 July, 2011.

She was on anti-depressants, she said, “as my dishonest conduct had started to take a serious toll on my mental health”.

Du Plessis said the directors of the law firm confronted her with their suspicions about her conduct on July 28 last year. She admitted she had paid money into Carlyle’s account, and resigned the next day. She was “deeply remorseful”, she said.

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