Jailed fraud pastor seeks appeal

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Cape Town - A former pastor with the New Apostolic Church in Durbanville, Cape Town, who was jailed for four years for embezzlement, applied for leave to appeal on Thursday.

Craig Vernon Freeman was sentenced on Monday to eight years' imprisonment, four of which were conditionally suspended for five years.

He appeared in the Bellville Specialised Commercial Crime Court, before magistrate Sabrina Sonnenberg.

Freeman had 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.

One of the conditions for the suspended four years was that he repay the money within five years of his release from prison.

In Thursday’s proceedings, defence attorney William Booth said the sentence was “harsh and severe”, and had induced a sense of shock.

He said the order that Freeman repay the money within five years of his release from prison was unrealistic, and that he was likely to be unemployed and unable to earn a living from which to repay the money.

Booth said it was unlikely that Freeman could comply, which meant he would ultimately return to prison to complete the remaining four years.

He said the test was whether another court might reach a different conclusion and impose a lighter sentence.

Prosecutor Jannie Knipe countered that Freeman, if unable to comply with the order to repay, would get the opportunity to explain his circumstances.

He said Freeman had faced a minimum sentence of 15 years for fraud involving R500 000 or more.

However, the court had ruled there were substantial and compelling circumstances justifying a less severe sentence. The four years imposed was lenient, and not harsh, he said.

The court will rule on the application on Friday.


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