Secretary of father, son lawyers Ronald and Darren Bobroff jailed
Pretoria - The former legal secretary of controversial father and son lawyers Ronald and Darren Bobroff was sentenced to seven years imprisonment for fraud and theft.
At the same time, the Bobroffs are said to be living a lavish lifestyle in an upmarket Australian suburb after they fled South Africa.
Zenobia Venter was convicted on 205 charges and admitted to stealing and defrauding clients of more than R1.9 million.
In a written plea explanation before the Specialised Commercial Crime Court in Joburg she claimed that she was pulled into the web of defrauding and stealing from clients by the Bobroffs.
In mitigation, Venter said she earned R20 000 a month while she had to take care of her children who were unemployed.
She claimed that the Bobroffs knew she was cash-strapped and Ronald proposed to her that they institute fictitious claims.
She said this proposal was made in 2011 and Ronald told her that she then could make extra money.
She explained that on each client’s case file submitted to the Road Accident Fund (RAF), there were a number of expert witnesses, mostly doctors, who submitted reports to the court.
The doctors were paid by the law firm from the funds they recovered from the RAF. These funds were then in turn recovered from the money which the clients received.
The firm previously used an expert, a Dr Botha, for certain reports. He had, however, emigrated. Venter said the surname of her mother, who is in her 80s was also Botha, and Ronald was aware of this.
According to her, he proposed a scheme where a fake account for Botha was added on to the client’s account. Amounts ranging from R8 500 and sometimes R17 000 were deducted for the "expert" services.
“The clients in most cases did not query why we were paying this doctor from their proceeds and simply accepted that Dr Botha was one of our numerous experts used on the matter,” she stated.
Cheques for these amounts were paid into the bank account of her mother.
“I would then either transfer the funds to my open account or I would withdraw the funds using my mother’s ATM card, or I would make payment of certain household expenses from my mother’s account.”
Venter said she would generally pay the Bobroff’s 50% of the proceeds in cash.
“The arrangement with Ronald Bobroff was that he and his son would receive 50% of the proceeds of the theft I was not the mastermind of the scheme to steal from clients’ funds, as this was one of many of Ronald and Darren’s various scams to defraud their clients,” she said.
Venter said in her plea statement that she was “extremely fearful” of Ronald, who “was an extremely manipulative and domineering personality”.
“He constantly made me aware that I could lose my job if I did not co-operate with him and his criminal activities”
Venter said after the Bobroffs skipped the country and the investigation into their conduct was under way, she had made a voluntary disclosure of her involvement in the theft.
The office of the National Director of Public Prosecutions last year obtained a forfeiture order regarding the money in two Israeli bank accounts belonging to the Bobroffs, as it believed that these were the proceeds of crime. The father and son pair are set on appealing this.
The pair, together with their families, fled to Australia in 2016. It was claimed that this sudden move came as they wanted to evade arrest by the Hawks regarding alleged fraud involving personal injury claims handled by them on behalf of their clients against the RAF.
The Bobroffs, on the other hand, said they had left because of threats to them by unknown people. They have throughout all the allegations against them maintained their innocence.