Post office syndicate convicted

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IOL  post office_sized INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS A strike at the SA Post Office Witspos mail sorting centre has resulted in delays in the delivery of City of Johannesburg accounts. File photo: Leon Nicholas.

Johannesburg -

Members of a syndicate that carried out daring robberies at nine SA Post Office branches around Joburg have been convicted for their R2 million fraudulent activities.

Mostly branch managers and tellers at Ekurhuleni and the East Rand post offices, the gang would clone IDs and use them to open savings accounts that were used to channel huge amounts of cash from post office coffers.

In June 2008, four accounts were credited with R80 000 each from the Boksburg North post office, while the fifth bogus account was credited with R20 000 on the same day .

On that day, a gang of non-post office employees armed with knives and guns pounced on post office staff, holding them hostage by locking them in a safe after taking their cellphones and cash from their tills.

Once staff members were out of sight, colleagues who were members of the syndicate would come in, take over the tills and manipulate the system to indicate that people whose names the accounts were opened in had deposited money into their Postbank accounts.

Syndicate members not employed by the post office would take IDs bearing their pictures but other people’s details and approach Postbank to withdraw the money – ensuring that tellers behind the tills were members of the syndicates so that their identities were not scrutinised.

The biggest transaction was made in July 2008, when syndicate members transferred R1.2m into five Postbank accounts in Pretoria.

Also affected were Riverfield and Daveyton post offices in Springs, Ebony Park and Tembisa in Kempton Park, Reiger Park in Boksburg, Khumalo post office in Alberton and the one at OR Tambo International Airport.

Now, four years after post office forensic investigators launched a probe, six employees faced the guilty verdict.

Johannesburg High Court Judge George Maluleke found that Onasis Maxam, former branch manager at Tembisa South post office, had been the ringleader, convicting him on 48 charges including fraud, racketeering, aggravated robbery and possessing a firearm and ammunition illegally. Reiger Park manager Lesiba James Marakalala was convicted on 36 charges, teller Malesela Donald Ledwaba on 15, and Funeka Felicia Ndlela and Jabulile Tracy Molotsane on 32 charges. Maphuti Francinah Pitjeng, a teller at the airport, was convicted on 35 charges, and Bongani Nkosi, who was not employed by the SA Post Office, on 37. Branch manager Fanie Andries Mahlangu and Lawrence Kepe Nkomoje have since died.

Sentencing procedures will start next week.

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