LOTTO bribER goes to JAIL

Cecil Motsepe

Cecil Motsepe

A Johannesburg magistrate yesterday told a man who stole a winning Lotto ticket that he was a scheming and calculating person who wouldn't miss a chance to defraud anyone.

"If you were honest you would have seen the red light flashing before you that indicated you were going to jail," said magistrate Zacharia Mashobane.

Mashobane was sentencing businessman Lazarus Letswalo who wanted to get rich quickly by trying to cash in another man's R5million winning Lotto ticket. The ticket belonged to Andrew Phoshoko, a former farm worker from Tzaneen in Limpopo.

Letswalo was arrested in November 2002 when he went to cash in the ticket.

Officials at Uthingo, the erstwhile national lottery operator, noticed that the name on the back of the ticket had been tampered with.

The suspicious officials told Letswalo to produce the rightful owner of the ticket before they would pay him out.

During the six-year trial, Phoshoko testified that Letswalo had bribed him with ice cream and food before making off with the winning ticket.

But Letswalo maintained he had sent Phoshoko to buy a ticket for him after dreaming about the winning numbers.

Yesterday Phoshoko revelled as the 44-year-old criminal was sentenced to 10 years in jail.

Phoshoko, who was accompanied by his relatives, left the court in high spirits.

"He must spend many Christmases to come in jail and feel the kind of pain I felt.

"He thought I was stupid. I am thankful for my stupidity because look where it got him. I would have given him R100000 had he not tried to double-cross me," he said.

His cousin, Thomas Phoshoko, said: "It has been a long six years. It drained us both financially and emotionally. But it was worth it."

Letswalo's defence asked for a suspended sentence during mitigation of sentence. But state prosecutor Henry Mbobo argued that he deserved to go to jail as he had been dishonest.

Phoshoko has since received his winnings.