Legal Aid fraud accused opts for plea bargain

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Cape Town - An advocate charged with defrauding the legal aid authorities is to plead guilty in plea-bargain proceedings, the Bellville Specialised Commercial Crime Court heard on Thursday.

Motlatsi Ishmail Pitlele, 43, appeared before magistrate Sabrina Sonnenberg, who warned him to appear in court again on September 5.

Prosecutor Simone Liedeman told the court she and defence counsel Chumani Giyose were negotiating the plea agreement and hoped to finalise the case during Pitlele's next appearance.

Liedeman alleged that Pitlele billed Legal Aid SA for work not done on two occasions.

Pitlele faces two fraud charges involving R23 464.

According to the charge sheet, Legal Aid SA engaged legal practitioners in private practice to defend indigent persons in need of free legal representation through the Judicare system.

Pitlele was engaged in July 2006 by the legal aid authorities to represent an accused person in a Western Cape High Court criminal trial.

Liedeman alleged that he billed the legal aid authorities in February 2007 for R11 577, and falsely specified that the trial had run from February 12 to 27 and was still running.

The bill was approved and payment made into his bank account.

According to the charge sheet the case was then allocated to another advocate to complete the partly heard matter.

The second advocate finalised the case and stated in his account that he had in fact started and finalised the case, and that the matter was not partly heard when he took over, as allegedly claimed by Pitlele.

On the second fraud charge, Pitlele was similarly alleged to have billed the legal aid authorities for R14 210 for work he had not done in the Western Cape High Court.

In the belief that he had in fact represented the second client the legal aid authorities paid him R11 887. - Sapa

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