Cancer con goes to jail

2018-06-28 16:20
Vindra Moodley (49) attempts to hide from news photographers on a previous appearance in court. She was on Wednesday jailed for  defrauding Cowan House Primary School, and taken straight to prison.

Vindra Moodley (49) attempts to hide from news photographers on a previous appearance in court. She was on Wednesday jailed for defrauding Cowan House Primary School, and taken straight to prison. (Ian Carbutt)

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The woman who defrauded Cowan House Primary School of nearly R2 million and faked having cancer, spent her first night in jail on Wednesday.

Vindra Moodley (49) was handed a 10-year jail sentence, half suspended, by the Durban Specialised Commercial Crimes Court on Wednesday for a spree of 73 fraudulent transactions, where she swindled the school out of R1 765 290,20. She had also, in 2014, lied to the school that she had advanced-stage cancer with just months left to live.

The sentence means that Moodley goes to jail for five years, with a further five-year suspended jail sentence hanging over her head. This means she will return to prison if she again is caught committing fraud or theft.

Her attorney, Pranil Rajcoomar, said he will apply for leave to appeal.

The court told him that he should bring an application to the high court and at that stage bail could be discussed.

Moodley sat with her head down in the dock as magistrate Judy Naidoo delivered a scathing judgment, saying that not sending her to jail would constitute a “mere slap on the wrist” for her “serious” crimes.

Naidoo said Moodley had willingly pulled the wool over the eyes of the school’s community when she faked cancer.

Ahead of the sentencing Moodley had testified that she had defrauded the school during “manic” episodes brought on by previously repressed memories of abuse by her father. She told the court that her mental state caused her body to wither, making her fake having cancer so she did not have to admit to her ailing mental condition.

Her long-time psychiatrist, Dr Stewart Lund, testified that Moodley had a history of depression and suicidal tendencies. But Naidoo said the court was not convinced by these claims, and she accused Moodley of “manipulating evidence” to present a story that would benefit her case. This was on account of her only telling Lund about her father’s abuse in 2016 — after she had been caught. “She committed fraud sometimes five, six or seven times a month … appropriating large amounts of money at a time ... This indicates a person with nerves of steel.

“[Moodley] hit upon a profitable scheme to feed her extravagant life­style. She could have desisted ... [but she] may well have continued if not caught out,” Naidoo said.

She said the evidence showed that Cowan House was severely set back by the fraud, adding that Moodley never told the court what she did with the money.

It had also emerged during testimony by a trustee in Moodley’s sequestrated estate that she had large amounts of undisclosed credit card debt, meaning she owed R2 099 296,58 to various creditors, including the school.

Naidoo said evidence by the former school bursar, Frances Ash, and principal, Robin Odell, showed the emotional trauma suffered by the school.

“A guilty plea is not an indicator of remorse when the writing is on the wall … the prevalence and impact of [these kinds of] crimes outweighs the personal circumstances of [Moodley].”

Naidoo said she had taken into account Moodley’s relatively young age and the fact that rehabilitation was possible when handing down her sentence.

Her current employer, Jeff Austin, previously testified that Moodley helped his business excel in the Midlands area, and he would employ her on a more permanent basis once her case was finished.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  cancer con

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