Cape Town - A young mother with a BCom degree in marketing received a suspended jail sentence on Wednesday for defrauding state-owned company Petro SA.
Alice Mlambo-Mgudlwa, 29, pleaded guilty to eight counts of fraud and 11 of money laundering when she appeared in the Bellville Specialised Commercial Crime Court, in Cape Town.
The proceedings took the form of a plea bargain, in which she was also placed under house arrest for two years, and ordered to do community service in the form of cleaning and maintenance at the Table View police station.
The plea-bargain included a confiscation order for her to repay the defrauded amount of R307 400 in full by the end of the month.
Mlambo-Mgudlwa was a graduate intern at Petro SA from February 2008 and embezzled from the company over four months.
According to the charge sheet, Petro SA runs a corporate social investment programme that gives donations and sponsorships to needy and disadvantaged schools.
Mlambo-Mgudlwa started a fraudulent scheme with Lungisa Mtsha, the principal at the Phumelela Day Care Centre in King William's Town, in the Eastern Cape.
Mtsha allegedly encouraged schools and day care centres in King William's Town to apply for Petro SA sponsorships.
Mlambo-Mgudlwa presented the applications for payment, and the schools and day care centres would inform Mtsha when payment was received.
Mtsha then had to inform the schools and centres that there had been overpayments, which had to be repaid.
The refunds were channelled into Mlambo-Mgudlwa's bank account, with some going to Mtsha as a reward.
According to the charge sheet, the head of the corporate social investment programme had the authority to approve donations of up to R500 000.
Aggravating factors listed by prosecutor Denver Combrink were that the victims were schools and day care centres in indigent communities, and that Mlambo-Mgudlwa had abused her position of trust.
The embezzled funds were channelled into her husband's bank account. Another aggravating factor was that she had lied to him about the unexpected deposits.
Mitigation, as presented by defence attorney Leon van der Merwe, was that Mlambo-Mgudlwa was able to repay the money in full, from a monthly salary of R20 000 earned in the oil company's employ.
She had already paid back R100 000, Van der Merwe said. She had also undertaken to testify at the trials of others involved in the embezzlement.