Cape Town pastor jailed for R3.5m fraud

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Cape Town - A former pastor with the New Apostolic Church in Durbanville, Cape Town, was jailed for in effect four years on Monday.

Craig Vernon Freeman appeared in the Bellville Specialised Commercial Crime Court before magistrate Sabrina Sonnenberg, who also declared him unfit to possess a firearm.

Freeman pleaded guilty to falsely informing two members of his congregation that he was engaged in the development of the farm Rhebokskloof, near Paarl.

By offering them returns of between 28 and 38 percent, they were duped into investing in the non-existent development.

Richard Williams-Sims invested R3 350 000, and Deon Scritten R200 000, between July 2006 and January 2007.

Neither received their returns, or their money back.

The magistrate said Freeman, a high income earner, had been driven by greed.

She found the sentence suggested by defence attorney William Booth - a fine and a suspended prison sentence, or correctional supervision not involving incarceration - was too lenient.

She agreed with prosecutor Jannie Knipe that either option would send out the incorrect message to the community that prison sentences were reserved for violent crime, but not “white collar” crime.

She said the interests of the community far outweighed Freeman’s interests.

She sentenced him to eight years, of which four were conditionally suspended for five years.

She said Freeman had to repay both victims in full within five years of his release from prison as a condition of the suspended sentence.

The sentence would be put into operation if he failed to repay the money as ordered, she warned.


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