Ex-pas­tor loses plea in church fraud case

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS -

THE BEL­LVILLE Spe­cialised Com­mer­cial Crime Court has de­nied a jailed for­mer pas­tor from Cape Town leave to ap­peal a four-year sen­tence im­posed on him for em­bez­zling money from two el­derly con­gre­gants.

Mag­is­trate Sab­rina Son­nen­berg found the sen­tence was le­nient, com­pared to the pre­scribed min­i­mum of 15 years, and was “by no means harsh”, as Craig Ver­non Free­man’s coun­sel had con­tended.

On Mon­day, Son­nen­berg sen­tenced Free­man, a for­mer pas­tor at the New Apos­tolic Church in Dur­banville, to eight years’ jail, four of which were sus­pended on con­di­tion he re­pay the money within five years of his re­lease.

Yes­ter­day Son­nen­berg said Free­man had faced a min­i­mum of 15 years for fraud in­volv­ing more than R500 000, but that she had found com­pelling cir­cum­stances which jus­ti­fied a lesser sen­tence.

De­fence at­tor­ney Wil­liam Booth said he would now pe­ti­tion the Western Cape Judge Pres­i­dent for leave to ap­peal.

Son­nen­berg also re­fused an ap­pli­ca­tion for Free­man’s re­lease on bail.

Free­man had pleaded guilty to falsely in­form­ing two mem­bers of his con­gre­ga­tion that he was en­gaged in a de­vel­op­ment of the farm Rhe­bok­skloof, near Paarl.

By of­fer­ing them re­turns of 28 to 38 per­cent, he duped them into in­vest­ing in the non-ex­is­tent de­vel­op­ment.

Richard Wil­liams- Sims in­vested R3 350 000, and Deon Scrit­ten R200 000, be­tween July 2006 and Jan­uary 2007.

Nei­ther re­ceived any re­turns or their money back.

Son­nen­berg agreed with prose­cu­tor Jan­nie Knipe that there was no rea­son­able prospect of suc­cess of ei­ther the ap­peal against sen­tence, or the pe­ti­tion.

She said a clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist had rec­om­mended a wholly sus­pended sen­tence, to en­able Free­man to earn a liv­ing and re­pay his vic­tims.

How­ever, she said the psy­chol­o­gist had con­sid­ered only Free­man’s cir­cum­stances, and not all the other as­pects of sen­tenc­ing, as she had done.

She said Free­man had earned a monthly salary of R50 000, and had owned a villa in Dur­banville. He also drove a lux­ury ve­hi­cle, all of which in­di­cated he would be able to re­pay the vic­tims within a rea­son­able pe­riod. – Sapa

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