Con artist who preyed on the elderly gets 15 years in jail

2017-09-14 18:08
(File, AP)

(File, AP)

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Durban - A con artist, who stole goods worth more than R600 000 after gaining entry into the homes of elderly people on the promise that her massage techniques and special magnets could ease their pain, has gone to jail for 15 years.

Mother of two, Charlene Singh, 33, of Pietermaritzburg, cried, begged for mercy, and asked for another chance to change her "messed up life".

But Durban Regional Court Magistrate Fariedha Mohamed said it was "too late".

Referring to a "formidable" string of previous convictions for housebreaking and theft, Mohamed said Singh appeared to be a "habitual offender".

Singh, who is already serving time in prison after breaking parole conditions, pleaded guilty on Thursday to 30 counts of theft, mainly committed during 2016, one of attempting to escape from custody, and one of possession of cocaine.

In her written plea, she blamed her addiction to drugs for the crimes she committed with her ex-boyfriend and a friend. They had plotted to steal from the elderly, many of them living in old age homes, and had shared the spoils.

'Crime had become a way of life for her'

Prosecutor Val Dafel said Singh would "pretend to massage" people, and tell them they had to remove their jewellery because she used a magnetic band.

"She would steal their goods and then say she was going to the car to fetch ointment for pain relief and not return... these were vulnerable people."

She said the net closed on Singh after she was arrested on the drug charge.

"Her victims had posted her image on social media... that is how so many of the charges came to light. The investigating officer stopped investigating when he got to 30. He could have gone up to 50 charges, but it was getting too big."

She said the crimes were premeditated and nothing had been recovered.

While some of the jewellery items were valuable, others had huge sentimental value, such as wedding rings, religious items, and even a Koran from Saudi Arabia.

"This case brings to light the horrible effect of drug addiction... crime had become a way of life for her. The only sentence can be one of imprisonment. The only issue is the number of years."

'I have made mistakes over and over'

In her evidence in mitigation of sentence, Singh described a troubled home life and, after getting pregnant at 16, a troubled marriage.

She claimed at one stage that she was earning R60 000 a month as a "marketing franchisee".

Singh said there were no drugs in prison, so she did not use them anymore.

"I have made mistakes over and over… I am guilty, but I would not have done these things if I had not been on drugs.

"I have messed up as a child, a wife and a mom. I am really sorry. I wish I could tell them (her victims) how very sorry I am."

Passing sentence, Mahomed said the only thing she could find in Singh’s favour was that she had pleaded guilty and had co-operated with the police.

She sentenced her to six months in jail on each of the 30 counts of theft.

Read more on:    durban  |  crime

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