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Stephanie pleads guilty to 34 counts of fraud

By: Kelvin Chiringa

Stephanie Serfontein, a woman who got arrested for stealing N$17 million from her employer has finally pleaded guilty to 34 counts on the main charge of fraud and an extra count on money laundering.

The 50-year old appeared in the Windhoek High Court this week after gathering enough courage to face the law following an attempt to end her life a few days ago.

“I hereby confirm that I pleaded guilty on my own free will. Nobody has influenced me in any manner whatsoever to plead guilty, nor was I made any promises. I further confirm that I am fully aware of the consequences of this plea, namely that I can be convicted on the charge to which I have pleaded guilty,” she said in her plea explanation.

She was employed by Ferrodrill (Pvty) Ltd as a senior administrator at their Windhoek branch dealing with the loading of new creditors and making monthly payments to them.

She admitted that due to her crippling financial challenges, she cooked up a scheme in 2009, October to defraud the company by inflating the amounts reflected on the original invoices received from the company’s creditors and submitting them for approval.

The company suffered an actual prejudice in the mount of N$4 million, while the stolen monies were allegedly channeled into her ex-husband’s account.

Stephanie’s ex-husband, Isak Serfontein however has refused to admit any wrong doing and his trial will be dealt with separately.

Nevertheless she claimed that their relationship had turned out to be a messy one, as the husband gave in to alcoholism and went broke.

She admitted that she had no intention whatsoever to steal from her employer but simply wanted to rescue a failing marriage.

“I just wanted to put food on the table, and that my children go to school,” she told the High Court Judge in a revealing narration of events.

Husband threatened me!

She also disclosed that the crimes spanned three years and that she wanted to stop but the husband threatened to sell her out about what she was doing.

With these monies, Stephanie claimed that her husband rose from rags to riches, firstly by opening for himself an Eros work office and taking flights to South Africa for business.

She claimed that he was the one who had created this parallel account in 2009, but she kept a record of all transactions so she could have proof in case they get arrested.

“He made huge cash withdrawals, I don’t know what he did with that money. When he opened this account, the reason I allowed him to do this is my marriage was in shambles. I wanted it to work. He said if he had control of the account, he would become a transport broker,” she testified.

As this was her second marriage, she said she did not want to admit that she had failed, again.

However, in spite of millions filling their pockets, money was always never enough, she disclosed.

“My heart has been torn into pieces because I am a Judas. I really did not want this. I am a very good worker. I could find a better paying job just for me and my son,” she narrated.

Stephanie’s criminal acts would later surface which led to her arrest and that of her ex-husband.

Bogged in the mud of debt

The court heard that prior to the commission of the crimes, the couple was in dire financial straits and had started one business after the other but kept on failing.

She said her salary alone was never enough as she had to deal with the bond payment of their house and school fees.

They tried a sheep-skin business which sunk to its knees leaving them owing some N$100 000 to Meatco, she told the court.

A truck and trailer cargo business also failed when the vehicle suffered a mechanical failure on the Angolan border leaving them with a debt of N$300 000, she also said.

Their house got sold off and they lost some N$80 000 in the process while she had borrowed some N$30 000 from her mother which was never paid back, she added.

“We were too bankrupt to declare bankruptcy,” she described the situation, adding, “I decided to steal the money. I was making rushed decisions without thinking.”

In the meantime, her case will be handed over to Justice Christie Liebenberg, the state accepted her plea and she has no previous conviction.

Kelvin Chiringa

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