A teary Roland Williams turned on the taps in a desperate plea for leniency yesterday, in the end escaping direct imprisonment for an act of fraud in 2014.
During sentencing in the Port Elizabeth Commercial Crimes Court, Williams laid bare his lavish lifestyle, claiming his monthly expenses totalled R81 000 while suggesting he was better off now as a consultant than when he worked as Nelson Mandela Bay’s communications director.
Williams was given three years’ house arrest with strict conditions and a suspended prison term.
He also has to pay back the R96 000 he cheated Santam Limited out of.
Taking to the stand for the first time since his arrest and conviction, Williams begged for forgiveness – if not for him, for the sake of his wife and children.
“I am sorry. I did something terribly, terribly wrong. Please forgive me, not for me but for my children,” he said.
During an emotionally charged day, the former jet-setting spin doctor was reprimanded by magistrate Lionel Lindoor for not cutting back on expenses and for talking in circles.
Lindoor, in addition to the house arrest, sentenced Williams to 16 hours of community service a month over that period, while also slapping him with a four-year jail sentence, suspended for five years.
He said Williams was not allowed to consume alcohol or drugs for those three years.
Lindoor delved deeply into Williams’s financial affairs, saying that if he was truly struggling financially as he claimed, he could have cut a number of expenses.
Prior to Williams’s testimony, his finances were picked through and his astounding monthly expenses tallied up.
These included a R20 000 bond, R15 000 monthly payments for a car, R10 000 for groceries, R2 000 for clothes, R12 500 for school fees and a DStv bill of R800, among other things.
Williams told the court he earned between R70 000 and R100 000 a month through his consultancy firm.
Williams also testified he wanted the best for his children and that was why he sent them to a private school and provided entertainment for them with the DStv premium package.
“DStv is the only bit of entertainment for the children. I cannot afford to take them to the movies or to Spur,” Williams said.
When his finances were discussed, Lindoor wanted to know why Williams had not cut back to ensure he could pay Santam.
“I was advised by my counsel to allow the court to decide on that matter,” Williams said.
He told the court he could comfortably afford to pay R5 000 monthly to Santam, but Lindoor said in his sentencing that he would have to pay R3 500 a month, with the total amount owed to be paid in full by July 2020 or he would be put behind bars.
The fraud conviction stemmed from a plan Williams claimed was cooked up by his now deceased friend, Raven Rungan, who owned VR Auto.