Ex-teacher ‘won’t pay’

2018-05-24 16:23
Cowan House witnesses don't believe cancer con artist will repay R1,7 mln.

Cowan House witnesses don't believe cancer con artist will repay R1,7 mln. (File)

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Cowan House school does not believe a former teacher who defrauded the school of more than R2 million will pay back the money, two witnesses testified on Wednesday.

Probation officer Ayanda Khabela and the school’s former bursar (head of the school’s finances), Frances Ash, both said during questioning at the Durban specialised commercial crimes court that the school had “lost trust in” Vindra Jaickaran Chhoteylal Moodley.

The former teacher requested The Witness on Wednesday to refer to her by the surname Moodley and not Jaickaran.

Moodley (49) had even supposedly told the school during initial negotiations a few years ago that she would only pay back the money if it dropped criminal charges against her, Ash said.

Ash, a state witness, said Cowan House was still recovering financially from the R1,7 million Moodley swindled the school of during her crime spree lasting from 2013 to 2015.

She described how the school had been “manipulated” by Moodley into believing she had cancer, leaving the community feeling “shocked and betrayed” when it was revealed it was all a lie.

She said staff members had rallied around Moodley, taking meals to her home when she pretended to have cancer.

Moodley pleaded guilty to 73 counts of defrauding Cowan House.

She admitted to lying to the school that she had cancer in April 2014, and even produced fabricated letters and medical reports from the Grey’s Hospital Oncology Department.

Her modus operandi, as revealed in her guilty plea, was to either inflate legitimate amounts owed to Cowan House and divert the balance into her own accounts, or outright fabricate companies and get the school to pay money into her accounts.

In her capacity as an IT teacher, she was involved in purchasing and maintaining computer hardware, and procuring software.

It was Ash, who has since retired, who opened the case against Moodley.

She said Moodley would sometimes tell the school that machinery was destroyed in electrical storms and needed to be replaced.

She would be given the money to replace the damaged property.

She said there was no additional oversight of these procedures, as Moodley was the one who kept track of the IT department assets.

“When we installed fibre optic cables, it was approved by finance and the board for the entire school. Only later we found out from the supplier that [Moodley told them] that Cowan House couldn’t afford the full job.

“But I had got an invoice for the full amount.”

She said in one incident the school received an invoice for 10 laptops at R10 000, but it was later revealed by the supplier that the school bought “entry-level” laptops for R4 500 each.

She said the school had no faith in Moodley’s ability to pay back the money.

Earlier in the proceedings, Moodley’s current employer, Jeff Austin, who owns an app development company for which she works “sporadically”, said he would employ her on a more permanent basis if she was not given jail time.

He described Moodley as a model professional who had developed strong relationships with clients, thus putting the company in a strong position.

The court heard that she currently earns an average of R8 000 to R10 000 a month, but that could increase if she worked longer hours.

It was also revealed that she has other contract work for IT training.

Both state witnesses agreed under questioning that the school would benefit if Moodley did pay the money back — something she cannot do while incarcerated.

But doubts were cast by the state on Moodley’s ability to pay back monthly installments to cover the R1,7 million in the period of five years.

Moodley was caught when the school launched an internal investigation into transactions she was involved in.

She had initially tried to get her son, Rushmir Chhoteyal, to take the blame, her guilty plea said.

The case is continuing.

Read more on:    cancer con

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