Durban - A RESERVOIR Hills man who taunted his neighbour and tried to extort him by using a fake Facebook account was sentenced in the Durban Regional Court on Thursday.
Dharmesh Singh, 23, pleaded guilty to attempted extortion.
In his plea and sentence agreement read out to the court by his attorney Deker Govender, Singh said while on Facebook, he had come across his neighbour’s Facebook page and Facebook messenger profile.
Singh then created fraudulent Facebook and messenger accounts/ profiles under the alias Sashin Soobramoney.
Singh used unregistered SIM cards and a mobile phone belonging to his father.
Singh sent several threatening messages to his neighbour. He threatened to send or continue sending e-hailing taxi services to his neighbour’s home. Singh threatened to kill him, rob his house, threatened to rape his wife and threatened to kill his neighbour’s security guard who was stationed at the house.
The messages and e-hailing calls occurred between April 3 and 23, 2020.
Singh told his neighbour that if he did not want this to happen, he had to place R50 000 in his postbox and that somebody would fetch it.
Singh also described the occurrences at his neighbour’s home and gave a complete and accurate description of his neighbour’s property. The neighbour felt he was being watched in real-time.
The neighbour also received various e-hailing services that stopped at his home for a client pick-up only to discover the drivers were sent on false pretences. The court heard that Singh’s messages and actions were intended to inspire fear in his neighbour and force him to make payment.
The case was then investigated by Detective Warrant Officer Rajan Govender.
Once Singh’s identity was established he stopped sending messages. He was arrested by police.
A mobile device and SIM cards, used to send the messages to the neighbour were found in Singh’s possession.
In his plea, Singh admitted he acted unlawfully at all times. He intended to acquire a monetary benefit by applying pressure (using various threats and ordering e-hailing services to exacerbate the reality of the threats).
Singh, who has a financial accounting degree from Varsity College, said he was suffering from depression after being ridiculed by a contemporary that he was an adopted child.
He had received counselling from a psychologist to equip him in life skills and problem resolution.
The court heard that Singh took advantage of an unsuspecting and vulnerable neighbour with a young family which he had no prior problems/altercations with.
The court heard that Singh’s actions were devious, calculated and completely opportunistic.
In light of the threats made the neighbour felt vulnerable. He hired the services of a private security guard at his own expense.
Govender said Singh’s actions intruded on the privacy of his neighbour and threatened his right to safety and security.
Much time and investigative resources were expended in bringing the investigation to fruition.
Govender said this type of offence regarded as cyber-bullying is becoming all too prevalent as people like the accused hide behind electronic devices and false aliases, believing that they can push the boundaries into criminal activity and never be found.
Accordingly, these offences are deemed to be serious and warrant a punitive and deterrent sentence.
Magistrate Farida Mohamed sentenced Singh to pay a R60 000 fine or two years’ imprisonment which is wholly suspended for a period of five years on condition that the accused is not convicted of extortion committed during the period of suspension.