A 22-year-old man who was influenced by friends to participate in a “faceless deposit scam” involving telephonic purchases, was jailed for four months by the Bellville Specialised Commercial Crime Court on Thursday.
Magistrate Amrith Chabilall sentenced Siyabonga Mesilane to two years in jail, but said he could be released into correctional supervision, on house arrest, after serving four months. His mother wailed so loudly during sentencing that she had to be removed from the court room.
Mesilane was involved in a syndicate that telephoned an order to a pharmacy in Kleinmond for three domestic first-aid kits altogether valued at R960. In the scam, the syndicate claimed to have made a deposit of more than was owing into the victim’s bank account – in this case R32 500 – then asked the victim to refund the overpayment into its bank account. The syndicate paid Mesilane R2 800 to open the Nedbank account into which the R31 540 excess was refunded.
Defence attorney Haley Lawrence requested a wholly suspended fine for Mesilane, while prosecutor Zama Mtayi requested a suspended jail sentence. Chabilall disagreed with both suggestions, finding that they tended to trivialise the offence. A short jail sentence, followed by house arrest, was more appropriate, he said. He said the infamous “deposit scam” was a notorious way of defrauding victims. He said Mesilane’s bank account had been frozen, and the money would be released and refunded to the pharmacy. He said a bank security system had caused its ATM to retain Mesilane’s card. He was arrested when he entered the bank to retrieve the card. Chabilall said the court heard about the scam every day, which meant it was on the increase and had to be “stopped in its tracks”.
He said the scam was “faceless”, as it was carried out by telephone, and no one was ever able to identify those involved. He said the trial had been scheduled to run for two days, but that Mesilane had cut it short by pleading guilty. “If you have pleaded guilty in order to protect the others involved in the scam, you have made a grave mistake,” he said.
This article was published on the News24 website on the 17th of February 2011.
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