Pietermaritzburg - A woman who pretended to be a masseuse for the elderly has been sentenced to three years in prison for stealing nearly R150 000 in jewellery from her victims.
Sharlene Singh, 29, cried in the dock of the Pietermaritzburg Regional Court on Wednesday as Magistrate Raymond Kunene reprimanded her for her thieving ways.
“You duped your unsuspecting, innocent victims who trusted you in their homes,” Kunene said.
Singh pleaded guilty to three charges of theft committed in January. In her plea, she admitted that between January 14 and 21 she went to the homes of three elderly women in Northdale, Pietermaritzburg, on the pretext of selling a back brace for health purposes.
She conned Vishvani Maharaj, Mayeshwari Pillay and Amladevi Hariparsad into believing she was a salesperson. All three victims invited Singh into their homes.
Singh said that once she was inside, she persuaded the women to let her massage their backs.
While massaging Maharaj, she slipped off two gold chains from her neck worth R35 000.
When it was Pillay’s turn, she stole a gold thali (Hindu bridal jewellery) worth R25 000.
She said before she could massage Hariparsad, the woman took off her R85 000 mangala sutra (sacred bridal chain) and placed it in a drawer. Singh said while Hariparsad wasn’t paying attention, Singh opened the drawer and took the chain.
Singh, who is a self-confessed heroin addict, said she sold all the stolen jewellery to buy drugs.
According to police, Singh sold the jewellery for a combined total of R1 500. It was worth R145 000. None of the jewellery was recovered as it had been melted down.
Kunene said it was clear Singh had planned her crimes well and picked her targets carefully.
Arguing in mitigation of sentence, Singh’s attorney, Nitesh Binnasarie, said Singh had a drug illness which required treatment and, had it not been for her addiction, she would not have committed the crimes.
“These offences were not committed out of greed, but out of a need,” he said.
Singh was employed in the marketing sector and earned R10 000 a month before her arrest.
On each of the theft counts, Kunene sentenced Singh to seven years, four years of which were wholly suspended for three years.
All the sentences will run concurrently.
Singh is no stranger to the courts. In 2012 she was charged with several counts of theft in Scottsville. She allegedly struck at retirement homes, posing as someone conducting a survey among the elderly.
She was arrested when she tried to sell the stolen goods.