Senior cop admits tipping off card-skimming suspect

A top commercial crimes cop has admitted tipping off a suspect in a card-skimming ring, by pleading guilty to a charge of defeating the ends of justice yesterday. Lieutenant-Colonel Mhleli Dyonase, 55, of the commercial crimes branch, entered a plea bargain with the state in the Port Elizabeth Regional Court in connection with an incident in October 2014 when the unit was monitoring ATMs for card-skimmers. Dyonase, of Algoa Park, did not deny that he had informed alleged card-skimmer Marinda Maseti that she and other suspects were being monitored. In 2014, Dyonase’s unit was tasked with staking out ATMs in Port Elizabeth where Maseti and her accomplices would allegedly attach skimming devices to cash machines to clone bank cards. They would then withdraw money from the bank accounts of their victims. When the undercover police operation was set up in late 2014, Dyonase was shown photographs of Maseti and the other suspects so he could identify them at the ATMs. The monitoring was due to take place between October 24 and November 2 that year. According to state prosecutor Martin le Roux, Dyonase knew Maseti, which he failed to disclose. Attorney Dean Murray, representing Dyonase, told magistrate Dewald Allers that Dyonase admitted to the charge. He argued that mitigating circumstances needed to be considered before sentencing, which Le Roux agreed to. Dyonase, who has three children living with him, is the sole breadwinner of the family as his wife is serving an eight-year prison sentence in East London on a similar charge. According to Murray, two of Dyonase’s children are wholly dependent on him. He also conceded to a correctional supervision report and a probation officer’s report prior to sentencing. Le Roux said there was no reason to incarcerate Dyonase, who was released immediately on warning. Allers said if there were any further transgressions by Dyonase, or if he was not fully cooperative doing his assessments, he would be incarcerated immediately. The sentencing will take place on January 26.