A woman’s undertaking to use her pension contributions to repay some of the money she embezzled from her employer saved her from a prescribed minimum sentence of 15 years jail this week.

Instead, she was jailed for 10 years on 534 counts of fraud, involving R1 455 149 that she embezzled from her employer over a period of four years.

Magdalene Sawyer, 53, a married mother of two minor children, pleaded guilty when she appeared in the Bellville Specialised Commercial Crime Court, before magistrate Sabrina Sonnenberg, on Monday.

The proceedings took the form of a plea bargain between her attorney and prosecutor Jannie Knipe.

Initially, her husband, Victor, faced similar charges, but the charges were withdrawn on the basis that he was unaware of what his wife was up to in her job as payroll supervisor with a company in Epping in Cape Town.

According to court papers, her position as payroll supervisor gave her unrestricted access to the company’s electronic VIP payroll system.

However, she abused her position of trust by manipulating her “super user” account with the company.

Her manipulation enabled her to channel amounts totalling almost one and a half million rand into her own two private bank accounts, and into an account that was in her husband’s name – without her employer noticing the discrepancies.

According to court papers, the substantial and compelling circumstances that justified the court’s deviation from the prescribed minimum sentence of 15 years jail, were her undertaking to sacrifice her pension contributions, amounting to R66 355, and her plea of guilty which dramatically shortened what would otherwise have been a protracted trial.






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