A South African court sentenced a former office administrator of the lesbian and gay organization, OUT, to seven years in jail after she managed to defraud the group of over R2.3 million. The court heard that the 43 year old mother of one used the money mainly to feed her online gambling addiction.
Lizette Stassen pleaded guilty to defrauding the organization and the Specialized Commercial Crimes Court suspended three years out of her seven for a period of four years. The case is now heading to the Pretoria High Court where Stassen will appeal the sentence. Last month, she was ordered to repay the R2.3 million stolen from the organization.
Stassen has said that she ‘only’ defrauded the group of R1.8 million and blamed OUT’s shoddy management and poor financial control features which gave her “ample opportunity to commit fraud.”
In her role as office administrator for OUT between 2007 and 2010, Stassen was given control over banking transactions, accounts and internet banking. Her power also extended to the signing of checks in the organization’s name and she was allowed to instruct the bank to transfer funds from OUT’s accounts to other accounts. Stassen was given a unique pin number and password and used these to make transfers into her own account to pay for goods and services of her choice.
While much of the money was used to buy gifts for friends and family and to pay for services for herself, Stassen admitted that she used OUT’s money to pay for online gambling.
When OUT sent its books to be audited, the theft was dramatically revealed. Stassen was approached by her employer and she admitted that she was the one who had taken the money. She promised to repay what she had stolen but until March this year, she only returned R10,000 of the R2.3 million stolen. “If I could afford to compensate them more per month I would do so,” Stassen told the court. She promised to continue paying back the money until all the stolen funds are returned to the organization.
OUT wants to see Stassen sit behind bars, if only to show its international donors that it takes its money matters seriously – something which was not displayed by projecting a “laissez-faire” attitude to Stassen when she was in charge of the finances. They group said that it preferred jail time for the former employee instead of a repayment of the funds.
If you have a gambling problem or know someone that has a problem, please visit Responsible Gambling