A man who stole millions from unsuspecting investors over a period of 13 years was on Friday sentenced to 15 years in prison after being convicted of 71 counts of theft.
The sentence was meted out by the Pretoria specialised commercial crimes court after Stephanus Johannes van Eeden, 62, pleaded guilty.
“Van Eeden committed these offences over a period of 13 years, from 2008 to 2021 by using the same method of stealing from his victims,” National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesperson Lumka Mahanjana said.
She said Van Eeden operated different investment schemes and persuaded people to invest in them as though they were legitimate businesses.
“Two of his investment schemes where he stole over R8m from 36 complainants were bitcoin and Med Consult Group (MCG).”
Van Eeden was arrested and released on bail in October 2017 after one of the complainants opened a case at the Brooklyn Police Station in Pretoria.
After his release on bail, a number of dockets were opened for similar offences all over the country and he was rearrested in January this year. He had been in custody since.
The NPA took a decision to consolidate all the dockets and centralise them in one court.
Mahanjana said one of the complainants told the court he lost all his money through the investments, and he cannot afford to stay in his own home. He is now renting out his home to make a living.
Prosecutor Willem van Zyl argued in court that Van Eeden was a career con man and the community needed to be protected from him.
Van Zyl said in 2017, when Van Eerden was applying for bail, he cited extreme health problems as a mitigating factor.
However, after being granted bail with a condition of not committing crime again, Van Zyl said Van Eeden committed the exact same crime four days later and continued until his arrest in 2022.
In delivering judgment the court said Van Eerden’s conduct showed his lack of ability to have true remorse. He stole money because of greed, not because of dire need.
Van Eeden asked for a lesser sentence due to ill health, but the magistrate said ill-health cannot be used as a licence to commit crime.
North Gauteng director of public prosecutions Sibongile Mzinyathi welcomed the sentence and said he hoped it sends a strong message that bogus investment schemes and other financial crimes will not be tolerated.
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