Cape town - A Hout Bay woman has been convicted of fraud for faking her child’s kidnapping to collect “ransom” money from her friends.
Bellville Commercial Crimes Court magistrate Amrith Chabilall convicted Kateryna Karpovska of three counts of fraud amounting to about R4 million.
Chabilall said that Karpovska, 39, originally from the Ukraine, did not impress him as a good witness and that her version of events was riddled with improbabilities and contradictions.
One such improbability involved her saying that her ex-boyfriend deposited around R4m into her US bank account so they could use the money for their joint-living expenses.
But Chabilall found her explanation to be unlikely as her ex-boyfriend had “business savvy” and knew how to work with money because he was able to retire at 50.
“There is no way one can accept that R4m was used for the living expenses of the accused and (her ex-boyfriend) over a 10-month period,” Chabilall said.
Chabilall accepted the ex-boyfriend’s version - that he deposited the money into her bank account thinking she would invest it.
Karpovska also accepted $100 000 from one of her ex-boyfriend’s friends for investment, but that money was later repaid.
In the third count of fraud, Karpovska defrauded seven American friends into believing that her son was kidnapped and the ransom demanded was $2m.
On September 2, 2009, Karpovska e-mailed a friend about the kidnapping saying she raised most of the money, but still needed $143 000. Her friends agreed to help her and supplied the money.
About R1m was paid into Karpovska’s bank account and she then told her friends that her son had been returned to her. Karpovska said she was handcuffed and held against her will by her ex-boyfriend and two others, and that he demanded she get the money one way or the other.
She admitted that she lied about her son’s kidnapping, but says she was forced to do so because she was terrorised by the three complainants.
Chabilall said it was strange that the e-mail to her friends was sent about a month after the confrontation on August 5, 2009.
“The court has no hesitation in rejecting the accused’s version.”
He said the State witnesses corroborated one another and were credible.
“There are so many objective witnesses who had absolutely nothing to gain from testifying.”
In giving judgment Chabilall convicted Karpovska of three counts of fraud, but acquitted her of one count of fraud, money laundering and contravening the Financial Advisory and Intermediary Act.
Sentencing proceedings are expected to begin on April 2.