A con-woman posing as a shaman and witch doctor has been sentenced to ten years in the UK for conning 11 victims out of £1 million ($1,680,000). It has been estimated that over the course of the 12 year con, she could have taken in up to £5 million ($8.4 million). Juliette D’Souza, 59, persuaded victims to hand over large amounts of cash promising them that the money would be hung by a shaman from a ‘magic tree’ in the Amazon rain forest.
Jailed by a jury after just one hour of deliberation on 23 counts of fraud and deception spanning from 1998 to 2010, the fake shaman told clients she had treated Princess Diana and knew Simon Cowell. Initial consultations were £35 but she then went on to charge huge sums to vulnerable clients.
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She claimed the shamans in the Amazon would perform rituals with the money and then send it back with the problems solved but none of the money was ever returned.
Presiding Judge Ian Karsten, QC, told D’Souza she was the worst confidence trickster he had come across. “The most serious aspect of this case is that you wrecked the lives of a number of your victims and you have done it out of pure greed,” said Karsten.
One woman handed over close to £200,000 for fertility rituals. When she eventually fell pregnant three years later, D’Souza convinced her to have an abortion claiming the child was ‘evil’ and would be born ‘deformed’, thus ensuring continuing cash from the victim for fertility treatments.
An 83-year-old opera singer Sylvia Eaves was duped out of £256,000 to solve a stomach problem and to save her ill sister.
A mother of a child (10) with Downs Syndrome handed over £42,000 to the fake shaman after D’Souza claimed she could cure the child.
Richard Collier-Wright, a retired solicitor who had leukaemia, paid her £17,000.
Suspicions were eventually aroused after D’Souza claimed she went to a non-existent college (‘St Hilliard’s College, Oxford’). In 2007, D’Souza left for Suriname and some of her clients became anxious. An osteopath, Keith Bender, who referred some clients to her, entered D’Souza’s flat with one of the clients to discover luxury goods, a monkey and a flat in disarray. Mr. Bender had once gone to Suriname with D’Souza where they had met shamans. D’Souza went on to invent rituals and claim continuing contact with these shamans for victims.
Mr. Bender then gathered together some clients of D’Souza and went to the police in but the case was deemed a civil matter and closed. It was only in 2011 that police began to investigate allegations of fraud and in 2012 arrested D’Souza.