Cape Town - A former paralegal conveyancing secretary previously jailed for fraud, was sent to prison by a Cape Town court for seven years on Tuesday for theft, fraud, money laundering, and forgery.
Marie Johanna Christina Rodney, 60, of Parow, Cape Town, appeared in the Bellville Specialised Commercial Crime Court, in plea-bargain proceedings before magistrate Sabrina Sonnenberg.
She would have commenced her sentence on Thursday last week, but the proceedings were delayed when she was allowed a postponement to Tuesday, to re-consider whether to continue with the plea-bargain, and face immediate imprisonment, or go on trial in the normal manner.
In Tuesday’s proceedings, prosecutor Denzyl Combrink announced the plea-bargain would proceed, and legal aid lawyer Hayley Lawrence placed the plea-bargain document on record.
Plea bargain proceedings last about 30 minutes, as opposed to a formal trial which can take weeks to finalise.
Despite her criminal record, Rodney was appointed a paralegal conveyancer with the attorneys' firm Patel and Totos, which specialises in conveyancing and liquidations.
As conveyancing secretary, she had authority to receive funds from clients, and make payments where due.
On five counts of theft, she diverted money paid by clients into her own bank account, instead of paying into the firm’s bank account.
On 22 counts of fraud, she inserted false bank details on payments to be made to clients.
She also pleaded guilty to 22 counts of money laundering and six of forgery, involving a total of R322 277.
Rodney was in fact sentenced to 26 years' imprisonment, but with some sentences conditionally suspended, and others running concurrently with one another, her sentence was in effect seven years.
The National Prosecuting Authority welcomed the sentence, and said in a statement that white-collar crime was serious in South Africa, and needed to be dealt with.
“We will vigorously prosecute criminals participating in white-collar crime wherever we find them. At the end there will be no place to hide. If you do the crime, you will do the time,” it said.