Former top municipal official Roland Williams gets house arrest for fraud

2018-05-03 21:08
(Duncan Alfreds, News24)

(Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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Former communications director of the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality Roland Williams has been sentenced to 36 months of correctional supervision in the Port Elizabeth Commercial Crimes Court on Thursday.

Magistrate Lionel Lindoor also gave Williams a suspended 4-year prison sentence, fined him R30 000 and instructed him to pay back the R96 000 owed to Sanlam.

Williams, together with co-accused V&R Motors, represented by widow Renika Rungan, pleaded guilty to insurance fraud in January after falsely claiming more than R115 000 in insurance from Sanlam for an accident that never happened.

Williams and Renika's husband, Raven Rungan – who was shot dead in 2015 – deliberately caused extensive damage to his BMW in order to put in a claim to defraud Santam after Williams experienced engine problems with his car.

READ: Hunt on for man who shot controversial towtruck-owner

Emotional Williams says he is a fraudster

Williams, 47, who was facing a recommended minimum sentence of 15 years behind bars, took to the stand for the first time to ask the court for leniency.

In testimony that took most of the day, an emotional Williams spoke of his family and the impact his direct imprisonment would have on his children.

"If it was just me, I would accept any sentence," he told Lindoor.

At the beginning of his testimony, Williams said he had not taken to the stand before as he had a habit of talking excessively and losing sight of the point. He then spent the rest of the day substantiating his statement.

In an ongoing monologue, Williams spoke about everything from his finances and potential clients to the personal details of his children.

His testimony often shifted from the question he was asked to a discussion of aspects of himself, ranging from his political career to his personal religious beliefs.

Williams told the court that the fraud had resulted from problems he had with his vehicle's engine and that the false claim had been Rungan's plan.

Williams claimed Rungan, whom he called an acquaintance that had loaned him around R50 000 over a period of time, had made the proposal in his office while drinking whiskey.

"I went along with something that was wrong. I made a mistake," he said.

"I am a fraudster. That stigma will always stay with me," he said.

Insurance fraud not a victimless crime

Earlier, ahead of sentencing, the State called three witnesses, including a representative from Sanlam who testified about how fraudulent claims affected normal policy holders.

Sanlam's Moonsamy Chetty told the court that there were two types of insurance fraud. The first was inflating legitimate claims and the second was deliberately submitting a false claim, as in the case before court. Chetty said the second type was deemed more serious, as it was premeditated, well planned and often difficult to detect.

Chetty said between 7% and 12% of claims were fraudulent and that Sanlam alone had had 331 cases since 2015 and had lost R28m. Chetty said the company had prevented the loss of a further R41m in the last financial year.

Living the good life

A correctional supervision report before court detailed how Williams, who resigned from the municipality in 2015, was earning an average of R100 000 a month.

His monthly expenses included among others: a bond instalment of R20 000; a car instalment of R15 000; school fees for his two eldest children of R12 500; a fuel account of R3 000; groceries of R10 000 as well as DStv premium instalment of R850; R1 000 for his cellphone; R2 000 for clothing and R5 000 for other expenses.

Further the report pointed out his wife had not worked for the past 12 years.

Williams often contradicted himself when talking about his finances, saying his earnings were between R70 000 and R100 000, but that the past three months had been difficult as clients had not paid him.

Prosecutor Theuns Goosen questioned why, if he was struggling financially, was he driving a vehicle with a monthly instalment of R15 000, had his children in private school and maintained his premium DStv account. He said Williams did not have his priorities straight.

Court swayed by plight of children

Magistrate Lindoor said he had been seriously considering direct imprisonment, and even periodical imprisonment, which would have entailed weekend jail time, but had ultimately been swayed by the plight of Williams' four children.

He accepted that imprisonment would adversely affect the children.

Lindoor said he felt Williams was not being honest about his finances, which led him to imposing the additional R30 000 fine.

Lindoor also said he did not feel Williams was truly remorseful for his actions. He said Williams had only decided to plead guilty the day trial was supposed to start and had seen how strong the State's case was.

"I believe there is some remorse, but it is only for yourself and your family," he said.

Read more on:    port elizabeth  |  fraud  |  crime

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