INTERROGATION over sex, money and lies had a jiu jitsu coach and convicted money launderer fumbling for words yesterday as he tried to talk his way out of a 15-year jail sentence and instead pass the buck to his former lover.
Jason Hendricks was forced to admit to an affair with his co-accused before his extravagant spending habits left even the magistrate shocked in the Port Elizabeth Commercial Crimes Court.
In just three months, he spent more than R5-million, all proceeds of theft, on a top-of-the-range BMW, a R1.6-million house and a trip to Brazil.
Hendricks’s co-accused and former lover, Danielle Norman, admitted to stealing about R16-million from SA Express Line (Sael) before she and Hendricks laundered the money through their Newton Park gym, Invisible Jiu Jitsu.
They will hear their fate today when magistrate Louis Claassen is expected to hand down sentencing after closing arguments.
Norman was manager of Sael’s Port Elizabeth branch at the time of the thefts, between May 2010 and September 2012.
Her position allowed her to requisition cheques from Sael’s head office on the basis that she had received invoices from suppliers to authorise those cheques for payment and then enter them into Sael’s account books.
She would then transfer the money into Hendricks’s personal bank account, after which it was paid into their business account.
They were arrested in May 2013, following an SA Revenue Services probe, which ultimately exposed their illegal activities.
Norman pleaded guilty to theft and money laundering. Hendricks pleaded guilty of money laundering only.
They each face a prescribed minimum sentence of 15 years in jail.
Testifying yesterday in mitigation, Hendricks painted a picture of an innocent man duped by his lover.
He said he regretted getting into business with Norman and said he should have listened to his wife, who warned him against it.
He said he started a sexual relationship with Norman in 2005.
He then moved to Cape Town, where he later got married and Norman remained in Port Elizabeth.
Towards the end of 2010, however, they reconnected via social media.
“In about 2011 Danielle and I managed to see each other again. Things were not good between my wife and me. Danielle was someone I could speak to. She was my best friend.”
He said he spoke to her about his dream of opening a jiu jitsu gym, together with a feeding scheme in the northern areas, where he is from.
“She said she had business contacts who often got involved in welfare projects.”
Hendricks and his wife then moved back to Port Elizabeth.
“All of a sudden money started coming into my bank account. Danielle said I must hold on, that a business account would be opened. I did not think there would be a problem.”
Hendricks said he would draw a salary of R50 000 a month, even though his gym was not yet bringing in much business.
He said Norman bought him a BMW, which he then traded in for a newer model. He also bought a house for R1.6-million. “I trusted her with my life,” he said.
State advocate Tjaart van Zyl said the only person he felt sorry for was Hendricks’s wife, who would have to continue to pay back the money even after Hendricks goes to jail.