Botha’s Hill secretary steals R3.3m

A BOTHA’S Hill fraudster, Sandra van Ellewee, was sentenced to eight years in prison after she stole R3.3 million from her place of employment.

During court proceedings, it transpired that Sandra worked at Fredisco Dyes and Chemicals in Gillitts, as the secretary to the owner, Peter Schneider, and had been stealing money from the company for just under six months.

She started work at the end of March last year.

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The first theft was on 12 April 2017 and the last was on 3 October 2017.

Testimony revealed that the company had recorded 13 instances of theft during this time period.

Matthew Schneider, who is Peter’s son, said one of the company’s suppliers queried why his father (the company) had not paid his account on time, and in general had been paying late or had been underpaying for the previous few months.

“My father met with the supplier to show them the company’s bank statements to prove that payment had in fact been made on time and for the full amount due.

“The supplier produced their bank statements and it was clear they had received a smaller amount. The payments as per my father’s bank statement did not agree to the receipt on the supplier’s bank statement. That is when we realised that Sandra was creating “once-off” payments by inserting the supplier’s name in the narration but inputting her bank account details instead of the supplier’s,” said Matthew.

He said his father, when authorising the payments, would see the supplier name, agree to the amount due, but not realise that the bank account number had been changed.

“Sandra would make smaller payments from her own account at a later date to the supplier, to keep the facade alive,” said Peter.

After the interaction with the supplier, but before realising it was fraud, Schneider asked Sandra about it but she became evasive and rushed out of the office because “her daughter was in the hospital”.

“Sandra never returned to work, so my father called me to do an audit as I am an accountant, and that’s when we discovered that she was stealing from my father,” said Matthew.

A case was opened and she was arrested before the end of October 2017. However, she posted bail and only spent three or four nights in jail.

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The company pursued criminals charges against Sandra and she was sentenced at the Pinetown Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday, 24 April.

The company has a high-level analysis of Sandra’s theft, totalling R3.3m; she sent R2m to customers resulting in a net theft of R1.2m. She has since paid back R75 000.

“The prosecutor wanted 15 years, the maximum, but Sandra ended up getting eight years, three of which were suspended for five years. I think it was lenient considering the quantum of money stolen, as well as for the abuse of trust. She stole 13 times, not a once-off thing and she showed no remorse. She has four prior convictions, so I would have thought that the judge would have given her the maximum,” said an upset Matthew.

Sandra deposited large amounts of money into her relatives’ bank accounts on a monthly basis but never revealed the source of the income.

Her family members confirmed in written affidavits that they received the money but never questioned from where and how she got the money.

The Schneider family are currently consulting with their attorneys to open civil or criminal charges against those family members.

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  AUTHOR
Deshni Ramkissoon-Pillay
Journalist

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