File picture: Independent Media

Cape Town - A mother of three adult daughters was effectively jailed for eight years this week for stealing in excess of R12 million from her employer, over a period of three years.

Norma Florentino, 50, appeared in the Bellville Specialised Commercial Crime Court before Magistrate Sabrina Sonnenberg on Thursday, and pleaded guilty to 232 counts of fraud and two of money laundering, altogether involving R12,166,460.

The hearing took the form of plea bargain proceedings, negotiated by her lawyer with State prosecutor Simone Liedeman.

She in fact qualified for a minimum sentence of 15 years for fraud involving in excess of R500 000, but it was agreed between the State and defence that the circumstances of the case as a whole justified a less severe sentence.

On the fraud charges, she was jailed for 15 years, of which seven years were conditionally suspended for five years, which means that she only has to serve eight years.

On the money laundering charges, she was jailed for eight years.

The court ordered that the two sentences run concurrently.

According to court papers, the family landed in serious financial difficulties after Florentino’s husband was unexpectedly retrenched and unable to pay student fees for two of the daughters.

Aggravating factors were listed as Florentino's serious breach of trust in her in her job as a debtors clerk.

Other aggravating factors were that she had involved her children in the fraud by diverting money fraudulently obtained into their bank accounts.

A third factor was that she had had ample time to reflect on her wrongdoing, but had continued with the fraud instead of stopping.