‘Close friend’ taken for a ride

Usha Thurmanath received a jail sentence for acquiring vehicle finance for a friend through fraudulent means.

Usha Thurmanath received a jail sentence for acquiring vehicle finance for a friend through fraudulent means.

Published Mar 4, 2024


Durban — A Durban woman was sentenced to prison this week for using a falsified salary advice slip and bank statements to secure finance for a second-hand BMW sports car worth R1 million in September 2019 on behalf of a “close friend”.

Usha Thurmanath says she was promised R50 000 for fronting for a long-time acquaintance, a policeman, whose credit rating was not good enough to secure finance for a 2015 BMW M6 coupe. According to the South African Banking Risk Information Centre (Sabric), this “zero to hero” method of bumping up a person’s credit profile was the third-highest reported type of fraudulent activity in the country.

Sabric said: “This is the Credit Profile Building Method of Operating, which involves the unlawful and deceptive practices used by individuals or entities to artificially enhance their creditworthiness or create a misleading impression of financial stability.

“This activity aims to create the impression of a legitimate salary or income, even though the applicant or company did not genuinely earn that income.”

Thurmanath, 36, purchased the vehicle from a dealership in Durban’s CBD. The car was delivered to her and her friend took possession of the vehicle almost immediately.

Thurmanath from of Welbedacht, Chatsworth, landed in trouble with the bank when she failed to meet the monthly vehicle repayments.

Her falsified salary advice slip stated she was as an operations manager for a company in the construction industry and earned R44 000.

In reality, she was an administration clerk whose monthly earnings amounted to R6 000.

Thurmanath was arrested in April last year.

She pleaded guilty to a charge of fraud in October, and made submissions on her wrongdoings via a S112 (2) of the Criminal Procedure Act (CPA) aligned statement at the Durban Regional Court.

Magistrate Prithi Bodha Khedun sentenced her to five years’ in jail in accordance with Section 276 (1)(i) of the CPA, which makes her eligible for parole after serving one sixth of her term.

Khedun jailed Thurmanath for a further 10 years wholly suspended for five years, provided she is not convicted of fraud during the period in question.

Prosecutor Surekha Marimuthu represented the State.

In her statement, Thurmanath said her friend approached her for assistance because she had a good credit record and was promised “R50 000 cash back once finance was approved”.

The friend asked her to supply various documents, including her payslip, driving licence and bank statements.

A few days later, the friend presented a new set of documents to her that had falsified information, including her earnings and designation.

She admitted in her statement that the documents submitted were “fictitious” and that she “misled” the dealership and the bank that financed the deal, which caused them financial losses.

“My actions were wrong and unlawful and induced the complainants by my misrepresentations, causing them actual prejudice.

“I briefly took possession of the vehicle before handing it over to my friend and had no further use of the vehicle or benefit. “I also did not receive any portion of the (promised) cash back.

“I beg this honourable court’s mercy and I am extremely sorry for my actions,” concluded Thurmanath’s statement.

A pre-sentencing report produced by probation officer Renuka Moodley, from the Department of Social Development, was also considered by Khedun. Moodley recommended imprisonment in accordance with S 276 (1) (i), and also highlighted that the bank was not able to recoup any of its losses because the vehicle was not recovered, which prevented it from being repossessed and auctioned.

Sunday Tribune