Private Prosecution Unit supports victim of “baby peddler”

AfriForum’s Private Prosecution Unit is currently assisting Sonia Leithgöb in the state’s case against Letitia van den Berg on charges of fraud. Leithgöb approached the unit after she laid criminal charges against Van den Berg for allegedly making a misrepresentation to Leithgöb and her husband as a private social worker regarding the adoption of a baby. Leithgöb approached the unit because she was concerned about a lack of communication from the South African Police Service (SAPS) in this matter.

The unit ensured that the docket was complete by providing the SAPS with evidence of communication between the complainant and the accused, invoices issued by the accused, as well as photographs of the baby sent by the accused to Leithgöb.

Leithgöb laid charges against Van den Berg in May 2022 after the former social worker promised Leithgöb that she could help her adopt a baby. Van den Berg sent photos of the promised baby girl to Leithgöb and her family. However, she also sent the same photos to several other couples. One of these couples, Shannon, and Chris Staniforth, ended up adopting the baby. However, the accused required both couples to pay her for so-called professional fees or “medical emergencies” in relation to the child.

However, after creating the expectation in Leithgöb and her family, including Leithgöb’s then five-year-old daughter who was excitedly awaiting her new sibling, that they would be able to adopt the baby, Van den Berg informed them that the biological mother had changed her mind and no longer wanted to give the child up for adoption. Meanwhile, the baby was in fact adopted by the Staniforth family.

“The state last week requested that the matter be postponed to 3 March 2023, and we hope it is to add further charges of human trafficking to the charge sheet. It appears that the accused sent pictures of children to several couples, as well as demanding fees from several people under pretexts. The unit, therefore, believes that Van den Berg’s actions may also constitute the crime of human trafficking. The damage caused by such actions to families who wish to adopt children is enormous and we want to assist the complainant in this matter to ensure that justice is served,” said Adv. Phyllis Vorster, prosecutor at AfriForum’s Private Prosecution Unit.

“We feel the accused acted fraudulently towards us by promising us a baby. Although it has been a long process, we are grateful that Letitia van den Berg will finally have to defend herself in court. She misled us by continuously and persistently promising us and other families, that we were going to be able to adopt this baby. She should be stopped before she does it to other people,” says Sonia Leithgöb.

The case against Van den Berg has already been postponed several times because she was sick/indisposed, and her legal representative submitted medical certificates to the court. Her initial legal representative also withdrew from the case, after which she applied for legal aid. However, it has come to light that she does not qualify for legal aid because her means are above the income bracket for this service.

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