Mom jailed for R6.8m fraud

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Cape Town - A Cape Town accountant was jailed for nine years on Monday for embezzling R6.8 million.

The money was embezzled over a period of eight and a half years while Leonora Elizabeth Bruyns, 55, worked for a company owning a Kwikspar supermarket and Mugg & Bean restaurant.

Bruyns, a mother of two, appeared in the Bellville Specialised Commercial Crime Court, before magistrate Sabrina Sonnenberg.

The magistrate said Bruyns had qualified for the prescribed minimum sentence of 15 years for fraud involving R500 000 or more.

She had pleaded guilty to 402 counts.

Bruyns, 55, was described as an “easily influenced people pleaser”.

She had become romantically involved with, and influenced by, a confidence trickster at a workshop in Belgium, and he had kept in contact with her through the internet.

He had fleeced her, and the more he demanded the more she stole.

Defence attorney William Booth described him in court as a “conman who preyed on vulnerable and gullible women”.

The magistrate disagreed with prosecutor Derek Vogel that there were no substantial and compelling circumstances justifying a sentence less severe.

She agreed with Booth that Bruyns’ background, which included a “distant and uncaring” mother, and the fact that she was a first-time offender, combined to constitute substantial and compelling circumstances.

Sonnenberg said Bruyns had started stealing from her employer in 2004, about two years before she met the confidence trickster.

She said Bruyns' thefts started once a day for four years, and then escalated to twice a day until 2010, when they increased to three times a day.

“From January 2012, she had the audacity to steal four times a day, and in November of that year she defrauded her employer five times a day,” she said.

Sonnenberg said the company was audited each year, but had negligently failed to pick up the discrepancies.

She added: “Either the auditor was not very good, or the accused was intellectually brilliant.

“She falsified documents and deleted information, and this showed brilliant and meticulous planning.”

Private social worker Ann Cawood told the court that Bruyns “started with small amounts and got away with it the first time, then the second and third time, and when she realised how easy it was, it became a habit”.

Sonnenberg said Bruyns was caught out in November 2012, when FNB reported fraudulent transfers from the company accounts into hers.

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