Serial PE swindler jailed for 10 years

After four years of postponements, an apparent cancer scare and about R1.6-million swindled from a string of Port Elizabeth residents, serial fraudster Jason Wood was sentenced to an effective 10 years in prison yesterday.

Wood was found guilty and then later sentenced in the Port Elizabeth Commercial Crimes Court on 18 counts of fraud and one count of contravening the provisions of the Close Corporations Act.

Handing down judgment, Magistrate Hannes Claassen said he hoped Wood could “stomach” what he had to say considering previous incidences where the serial fraudster had become ill during the proceedings.

Just before sentencing, Wood’s attorney, Masunet Strydom, said Wood had just informed her that he had been diagnosed with cancer which needed surgery.

Wood, 44, of Circular Drive, was arrested in 2013 after he swindled a string of people, including a policeman, an unemployed friend and a clinical psychologist, out of hundreds of thousands of rands, claiming they would see quick returns.

A combined R1.4-million was taken by Wood either through cash, cheque or electronic bank transfer for a variety of schemes between January 2011 and July 2012. The money was never repaid.

The state also proved that Wood had obtained at least four vehicles under false pretences, telling the owners he would give them the money for the vehicles once they were sold. This was never done. The total value of the vehicles, including an Opel Astra, BMW and Toyota Camry, was R207 000.

Wood proclaimed innocence throughout his trial, suggesting at one stage that the complainants had merely “jumped on the bandwagon” when they spotted his name in the newspaper.

Wood was also found guilty of fraud and theft in two other cases in 2006 and 2009.

He received suspended sentences in both cases.

The most recent crimes of which Wood was found guilty yesterday took place during the time of his 2009 suspended sentence.

State attorney Lise Keech said in aggravation of sentence that Wood had not shown any remorse for his actions.

“In 2009, his sentence was suspended for six years and, not a year later, he started again,” Keech said. “His 2006 sentence was put in operation but was converted to a suspended sentence again.”

She said Wood had used the same modus operandi to swindle people.

“Wood is the reason why these people lost all this money,” Keech said.

Passing sentence, Claassen said Wood had a history of defrauding and stealing other people’s money and sentenced him to an effective 10 years in prison.

In addition, Wood received a six-month sentence for failing to keep accounting records for one of the close corporations in his name. Both sentences will run concurrently.

Strydom said Wood intended to appeal against the verdict and sentence.

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