Magistrate in harmony with fake choir’s chorus for clemency
“choir members” to perform in shows abroad. The man would submit applications for the visas, but once in the US, the applicants would stay.
After an investigation, the US consulate discovered that the man used an agency, owned by a woman identified as Gloria Williams, to collect money from applicants, who were instructed to go for interviews at the consulate. It was at these interviews at the Westlake US consulate on Tuesday that the group was arrested.
They pleaded guilty to fraud on Thursday, and returned to court yesterday for sentencing.
The seven women and one man are from Joburg, Pretoria and KwaZulu-Natal.
Another two women, both from Cape Town, did not plead guilty and are due in court again next month. They have been released on R500 bail each.
In court yesterday, it emerged that the group regretted what they had done. Their intention had been to start new lives abroad. Their attorney told the court they were victims of a scam perpetrated by “bigger fish”.
The court heard that the group had paid the price for their actions through the humiliation of being exposed in the media, the fact that they were held at Pollsmoor Prison for three days, their legal costs, as well as payment to the agency.
The amounts ranged from R9 000 to R16 000.
In addition, many had resigned from their jobs.
However, while prosecutor Thervabashnie Naidoo said she felt sympathy for them, she was not persuaded by their attorney’s arguments.
She told the court the consequences were “of their own making” and that they knew it was a scam.
She added that the group had abused the opportunity that the US government has given to South Africans to go abroad, and that their actions had repercussions for law- abiding citizens who wanted to travel. Naidoo also questioned whether their remorse was genuine.
Magistrate Mahanjana said he was mindful of the seriousness of the offence but that he had taken into account their personal circumstances, and that their guilty pleas indicated remorse.
He fined them R3 000 each, suspended for three years on condition they were not convicted of similar crimes during that period.
Those sentenced yesterday were Vuyelwa Nkontsa, Yvonne Dlamini, Susan Mahapa, Khayelinhle Sosibo, Nkuthula Dlamini, Nomthandazo Tyatya, Bianca Mazibuko and Rittan Shandu.
The case against Samantha Solomons and Samantha Davies, both from Cape Town, was postponed to August 23.