A 62-year-old serial thief has been handed 15 years behind bars by the Pretoria Specialised Commercial Crimes Court.
Stephanus Johannes van Eerden was convicted of 71 counts of theft after pleading guilty.
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) said Van Eerden committed all offences over a period of 13 years, from 2008 to 2021, by using the same method of stealing from his victims.
“He operated different investment schemes and persuaded people to invest in them as though they were legitimate businesses,” said NPA’s Lumka Mahanjana.
Two of Van Eerden’s investment schemes, where he stole over R8 million from 36 complainants, were bitcoin and Med Consult Group (MCG).
One of the complainants said during his testimony that he lost all his money to the investments.
He told the court that he can not afford to stay in his own home and has to rent it out in order to make a living.
State prosecutor, advocate Willem van Zyl, argued that Van Eerden was a career conman and the community needed to be protected from him.
It is said that back 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, he committed the exact same crime four days later and continued until his arrest in 2022.”
In delivering the sentence the magistrate said that Van Eerden’s conduct showed his lack of ability to have true remorse. He stole money because of greed, not because of dire need.
The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), advocate Sibongile Mzinyathi has since welcomed the sentence and said he hoped it sends a strong message that crimes of bogus investment schemes and other financial crimes will not be tolerated.