Suicide pretender who stole from client gets five years
A small-town bookkeeper who stole more than R200 000 from an elderly client and then faked her own death a day before her court appearance, pretending to have committed suicide, has been sentenced to five years in prison by the Port Elizabeth Commercial Crimes Court.
The petite Janine Samuels, 34, took to the stand yesterday, where she spun a tragic story of a sad past and an abusive relationship.
Samuels, of Willomore, said she had even lost her baby at eight weeks old after she contracted an infection during her pregnancy because of the stress of the case.
She said she had absconded from court on numerous occasions to try to raise enough money to reimburse her victim, hoping this would result in lenience.
She was re-arrested and her bail finally forfeited in October last year, after an e-mail was sent to her attorney at the time, claiming that “Janine Samuels is dead”. She has been in custody since. Yesterday, defence attorney Gary Botha said she had shown remorse and so badly wanted to pay back the money that she had risked arrest by skipping court.
Samuels, meanwhile, said she had spent a large chunk of the stolen money on “nonsense”, such as an ex-boyfriend and airtime, and the rest had been spent on her seven-year-old son, who has a learning disability.
Samuels was arrested in January 2015, after she stole from Willomore resident Frances Erasmus.
Then, on October 12 last year, a day before she was due to appear in court, Legal Aid attorney Piet Prinsloo received an e-mail from “Chas Bradshaw”, claiming to be Samuels’s fiance.
The letter before court states: “I am the fiance of Janine Samuels and I am letting you know that she has taken her own life.
“She was with me when she died and when I tried to wake her to travel to PE, I found her dead. You must treat this with discretion because she has a six-year-old son.”
“Bradshaw” continues that the funeral will be held in Cape Town.
Samuels was nabbed in Willomore two weeks later.
After firing Prinsloo because she apparently no longer trusted him, Samuels ultimately pleaded guilty to the theft in February.
“If I could turn back time, I would not have done what I did. Not only did my actions affect the complainant, but it affected my family too,” Samuels said yesterday.
“My son is suffering because of it and it is hard to watch him suffer.”
She said she had terminated her relationship with her son’s father because he was abusive and she now worried that her son would not receive the attention he needed should she go to prison.
But magistrate Lionel Lindoor said Samuels had chosen to apologise to Erasmus when she was not even in court to hear the apology.
“She was in court previously and you did not apologise then,” Lindoor said.
He sentenced Samuels to five years in prison in terms of Section 276(1)i of the Criminal Procedure Act. This means she must serve a sixth of her sentence before she can be released and serve the remaining time under correctional supervision.