Cape Town - A Western Cape bogus paralegal practitioner was ordered on Friday to repay his victims a total of R346 280 by mid-January, or face seven years in prison.
Chris Lodewyk, 46, was also sentenced to two years house arrest, during which he has to do community service as a cleaner and maintenance worker at the Parow police station.
He pretended to be an attorney and financial adviser, and defrauded three victims after falsely advertising himself on the internet website Gumtree.
He appeared in the Bellville Specialised Commercial Crime Court before Magistrate Sabrina Sonnenberg, who warned him he was not allowed to consume liquor during the two years of house arrest.
He was sentenced on three counts of fraud and one of violating the Attorney’s Act, in plea-bargain proceedings.
In addition to the house arrest, he was sentenced to seven years, suspended on condition that he repay his victims by mid-January.
Senior State advocate Razia Valley-Omar told the court Lodewyk advertised himself on Gumtree as a paralegal and attorney, in the name of Legal Max, for more than four years - from January 2008, to March, 2012.
Lodewyk, who suffers serious depression resulting from an abusive relationship, was recently assessed by the Valkenberg Psychiatric Hospital as fit to stand trial.
On one fraud count, Lodewyk charged victim Richard Watkins fees amounting to R50 280 over a period of three years for legal work in Watkins’s dispute with a motor company.
On the second fraud charge, he charged victim Werner Schreuder R79 600 to defend Schreuder in high court litigation.
Lodewyk falsely informed Schreuder that the litigation had gone in his favour, and the first that Schreuder knew that he had been defrauded was when the sheriff arrived at Schreuder’s home to attach his vehicle.
On the third fraud count, Lodewyk, pretending to be a registered financial adviser, duped pensioners Richard and Elizabeth Dickenson into investing R216 000 in a non-existent company, First Stage Holdings Ltd, for a “guaranteed” annual return of between 16 and 18.5 percent.
Valley-Omar said Lodewyk had abused his position of trust with the three victims, and had defrauded them in a calculated manner.
Legal aid defence attorney Hailey Lawrence assured the court that an investment that was due for release in mid-January would enable Lodewyk to compensate his victims in full in accordance with the order.