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MTN cell tower thief gets 500-year sentence

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A Cape Town man has been sentenced to 500 years for stealing cell tower equipment from mobile operator MTN.

In a statement, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) of South Africa says the Cape Town Regional Court Division of the Western Cape sentenced David Jenkins to 500 years imprisonment after he was found guilty of 25 counts of theft.

He was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment for each of the 25 counts, which collectively amounted to 500 years imprisonment.

However, the court suspended seven years of each of the 20 years which resulted in effective 13 years imprisonment for each count.

The court further added that all the sentences run concurrently. That effectively means Jenkins will serve 13 years imprisonment.

The hefty sentence comes as criminal syndicates are increasingly targeting South African mobile operators’ base stations, stealing or vandalising critical infrastructure like batteries, copper cables and diesel.

The theft and vandalism of this infrastructure has resulted in the mobile operators losing hundreds of millions of rands.

The man’s sentence follows a plea and sentence agreement reached with the state, says the NPA.

It says the 30-year-old confessed that between 11 January 2018 and 9 February 2018, he drove around in his vehicle and stole broadband over power lines cards and BPKd cards from MTN cellular phone towers across the Cape Town and some parts Boland.

He also stole Small Form Pluggable Optical Modules from Cell C which are compact media connectors that provide instant fibre connectivity for networking gear, the NPA says, adding that these cards provide high speed Internet to users.

According to the NPA, he targeted MTN Towers in Du-Noon, Tableview, Paarl South, Paarl, Bellville North, Bellville, Parow, Strand, Lwandle, Mowbray, Hermanus, Hawston, Durbanville, Duinefontein, Melkboss Strand, Kraaifontein, Eersterivier, Goodhood, Athlone, Delft, Elsies River and Milnerton.

The equipment he stole is worth R1 677 000 in total.

Prosecutor, Advocate RonelleStone, who finalised the agreement, said the kind of crimes committed by the accused were problem-type offences because they caused the administration of justice great difficulty in solving them.

“There is a sharp increase in these types of offences in the jurisdiction of this court. The consequences of these offences are of very serious nature and the punishment imposed should serve to protect the society,”she added. 

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