Zenobia Venter, once a legal secretary in the practice of fugitive attorneys Ronald and Darren Bobroff, has been jailed on 205 counts of fraud and theft and has begun serving a seven-year sentence at Pretoria Central Prison.

A Fin24 report says Venter confessed to stealing more than R1.9m from Road Accident Fund (RAF) clients via a scheme she says was masterminded by her former employers.

Venter, who worked for the firm from 2006 until 2016, pleaded guilty on all counts.

Ronald Bobroff – formerly president of the Law Society of SA – along with his son, Darren Bobroff, fled the country for Australia in 2016, days before they were due to hand themselves over to the Hawks. The pair had specialised in personal injury claims at Ronald Bobroff & Partners, of which both were directors. A large number of their cases had related to vehicle accidents.

They were struck from the roll of attorneys amid allegations that they had fleeced clients out of hundreds of millions of rands via contingency fees charges above the 25% cap specified by the Contingency Fees Act on RAF payouts.

Other allegations related to compensation due to accident victims, where the Bobroffs were accused of stealing funds that should have been paid out to clients from the RAF.

Ronald Bobroff reportedly told Fin24 that Venter was ‘rightfully’ found guilty of extensive fraud and theft. He described her plea as ‘engineered fabrications’, and stated that her fraud had been perpetrated against their practice.

Venter (61) was sentenced to seven years' direct imprisonment. Her guilty plea, filed at the Specialised Commercial Crimes Court in Johannesburg, states that while in the employ of the Bobroffs, she stole an amount of R1 902 223.05, half of which went to her, and half of which was paid over to Ronald and/or Darren Bobroff.

According to Venter, Bobroff Snr approached her at the beginning of 2011 with a ‘proposed plan’ to make extra money.

She claims she was ‘extremely fearful’ of him and agreed to the scheme partly out of fear for her job, and partly out of financial need, as she was divorced and supporting five people, including her aged mother.

She admits benefiting to the tune of nearly R1m.

How the fraud was perpetrated and the Bobroff involvement is described in detail in the report. However, the Bobroffs' attorney, John Cameron, dismissed Venter's account as ‘hogwash’.

Cameron challenged Venter to produce proof that the stolen money had been transferred into a bank account held by one of the Bobroffs as she claimed.

Full Fin24 report