Bogus lawyer in trouble again

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Ashni Singh

Durban - A bogus attorney already serving a five-year sentence for defrauding several people, has again been found guilty and sentenced for the same crime.

She has blamed a former co-accused, who she claims led her to believe he belonged to a cult that ate human corpses.

Ashni Singh, was sentenced to four years in jail in the Durban Regional Court on Monday for pretending she had two flats to sell on the Marine Parade in Durban for R243 000.

One of the properties did not exist; the other was not for sale.

It is understood that the victim in this case found out he had been duped when he saw a newspaper story about Singh’s conviction for the same crimes in the Commercial Crime Court in November.

Singh’s four-year sentence is to run concurrently with her five-year jail term imposed in November.

Her victims in the earlier crime include Durban businessman Jay Singh.

In her written plea, submitted to the court by her attorney Mervin Maistry, she blamed her two former co-accused, ex-husband Shayell Singh and his business partner Yugendran Govender, for her part in the fraud.

She claimed Govender was introduced to her as a spiritual adviser who belonged to the religious cult Aghoris that believed in living with and eating human corpses.

Shayell Singh and Govender were arrested, but charges were later withdrawn against them.

In November, the Commercial Crime Court heard that Jay Singh, the businessman linked to the Tongaat Mall collapse, was conned into buying two Durban properties, one for R980 000, the other for R500 000, from impostor Ashni Singh.

Pretending to be a lawyer, the 37-year-old woman had told the businessman she was selling repossessed homes on behalf of the eThekwini Municipality.

All he had to do was pay the outstanding taxes and rates to acquire ownership of the two homes, in Innes Road, Morningside, and Playfair Road, North Beach.

But when Jay Singh later put pressure on Ashni Singh to refund the money, she had committed further fraud to pay him.

In her plea on Monday, Ashni Singh said she married Shayell Singh in a religious ceremony and not a civil union and she was working as a paralegal and secretary at a taxi drivers’ union at the time.

She claimed they had a stormy relationship and she was subjected to physical and verbal abuse from her husband and threatened with violence if she did not give him money.

She said she lived in constant fear of him.

She also said he had established the KZN Legal Unit and was the sole member of this close corporation.

She was later introduced to an attorney who said she would be able to secure homes that were repossessed by the municipality because of overdue rates, by way of a tender.

Singh said she was tasked with securing potential buyers and was authorised to act as a representative of the KZN Legal Unit.

At this point, she said she believed the transactions were authentic.

Potential buyers signed a sale agreement and made payment into the unit’s bank account, which she said Shayell Singh had access to and withdrew for his and Govender’s use.

She said some of the people who believed they had bought properties were refunded their money; others were not.

She admitted to not warning clients when she became aware that properties were not secured.

“I was caught in a downward spiral from which I could not escape and participated in the acts of fraud in the hope the complainants would be paid and to delay the discovery of what had happened,” her plea read.

She said in refunding money, she had to incur personal costs and did not benefit financially.

The more recent bogus sales took place in July 2012 when she requested a R130 000 deposit from the victim, which he paid into her bank account.

A few days later she informed him of another flat he might be interested in.

The purchase price of the flat was R80 000, which the victim paid to her.

She then requested a further R33 000 towards other costs such as rates and levies. He again complied.

She admitted neither of the two flats were for sale and she was not authorised to sell them.

noelene.barbeau@inl.co.za

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