Stiff sentence for e-tolls fraudster

Carin Smith

Pretoria - A Gauteng motorist has received a stiff sentence in the Pretoria Magistrate's Court for falsifying his number plates in order to avoid paying e-tolls.

Bulgarian researcher Dr Stoyen Hristov Stoychev, a 36-year-old biochemist who works as a senior researcher for the CSIR, pleaded guilty and was convicted of fraud and evading e-tolls. On a charge of fraud he was fined R20 000 or six months in prison. In addition to this he was sentenced to a further prison sentence of 12 months, which was completely suspended for five years on condition that he is not convicted of fraud during this period of suspension and, furthermore, that he performs 100 hours of community service at the SPCA on Saturday mornings.
On charges of attempting to evade e-tolls, which is a contravention section 27 of the Sanral Act, he was also fined R20 000 or six months in prison. This was completely suspended for five years on condition that he is not convicted of contravening this section of the Sanral Act in his suspension period and that he pays his outstanding e-tolls. He owes Sanral more than R14 000. He is allowed to pay this off in instalments over a period of six months.

The SA National Roads Agency (Sanral) said in reaction that this is a precedent-setting judgment.

Stoychev was arrested on October 2 last year after it was found that he had been driving on Gauteng’s tolled highways with fraudulent number plates on his white Hyundai for the past seven months.

He allegedly used two sets of fake number plates on his Hyundai i30, or on occasion removed or defaced his number plates while using the N1 between Pretoria and Johannesburg between March and October 2014.

One of the false number plates belonged to the Bantam bakkie of another motorist who was a registered e-toll user.
He was nabbed after traffic officials set a trap for him on the N1 freeway in Centurion on October 2 last year.

Magistrate Desmond Nair said in his sentencing that it struck him that Stoychev, "who is highly intelligent and holding a doctorate degree" stooped to such a level to avoid paying e-tolls.

Sanral said in a statement it is satisfied with the outcome of the case and hoped it would serve to encourage motorists to obey the law and "not fall for misguided calls for civil disobedience".