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SPCA fraudster starts a ‘new life’

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"I'm deeply remorseful"

BETTER DAYS: Teresa Fernandez when she was fund-raiser and public relations officer for the Umgeni SPCA in Howick, which she defrauded of R300 000. She would not allow a picture to be taken when The Independent on Saturday interviewed her in Durban yesterday.
Fraudster turns over a new leaf

DUNCAN GUY

WITHIN a month of coming out of 19 days in prison following her arrest, convicted fraudster Teresa Fernandez went to church to be baptised ahead of a new life.
“I have felt revolting,” she said after being sentenced this week to a five-year suspended sentence, for taking R300 000 she had raised for suffering animals for the Umgeni SPCA in Howick. She was also sentenced to three years’ house arrest and is waiting to hear where she will have to do community service.
“What I did was despicable. I am deeply remorseful for my actions as I took advantage of people’s kindness,” she said.
Fernandez now plans to live a quiet life in Durban, supporting her local SPCA  in her personal capacity and with little care for materialism.
The Howick Magistrate’s Court heard that she had committed the crime to give her unemployed partner, Lee Bromley, and his daughter, a comfortable lifestyle. The couple went to Italy but she returned in December on borrowed money to “sort out the mess” that flared up in her wake, she said.
Westville Prison was “the most horrific experience of my life”, but Fernandez returns there to visit a sentenced inmate, serving time for white-collar crime, who she met in the hospital section.
She said people were kind and protective in an environment with racism and cruelty.
“A senior warden hit me,” Fernandez, 47, recalled.
“They would throw our tablets at us and say if we wanted to commit suicide we should go ahead.”
Another inmate she befriended was a woman with a child outside, who was a drug dealer to support her children. “I realised you cannot judge anyone unless you’ve walked in their shoes. These are human beings and all of us make mistakes,” she said.