A Guyana-born woman who conned her ‘patients’ out of £1million by claiming she could cure them was on Friday sentenced to ten years in prison by a UK judge, according to the UK Daily Mail.
While 59-year-old Juliette D’Souza, who is said to be one of the most prolific conwomen in British history, told victims she was an orphan born on a plane with the amniotic sac over her face – a lucky symbol – the newspaper said she was in fact born Maryan Persaud in Guyana. And Far from having a university education, as she claimed, she was a former cleaner, receptionist and temporary worker.
D’Souza, persuaded 11 clients to hand over their life’s savings – which she insisted would be hung from a magic tree in the Amazon as a sacrifice. Instead, the report said she spent the cash on first class flights, antique furniture and a £3,000 Hermes handbag.
She was sentenced by Judge Ian Karsten QC who said she had cast a ‘spell’ over her victims – who had cancer, disabilities, sick relatives, job worries and fertility problems – persuading them to hand over the money or face ‘terrifying’ consequences including the death of their loved ones.
A jury took just an hour to convict her of 23 counts of fraud and obtaining property by deception, spanning 12 years from 1998 to 2010.
Judge Karsten told her on Friday: “It is the worst case of confidence fraud I have ever had to deal with or indeed that I have ever heard of.
“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.
“You told a number of victims the money would be returned. The reality, as it has emerged, is that you didn’t send any of this money to South America. You used the cash for your own purposes.
“You cheated each and every one of these victims. You were able to exercise a considerable influence and indeed a spell over these victims.”
According to the Daily Mail he further said a number of victims were “subjugated” to her will so that they “lost all of their autonomy” and became “entirely dependent” on her.
“To reinforce their dependence on you, you initially saw to it that they were cut off from their friends and family,” he added.
“You warned them about the `evil temperament’ of the people to whom they were close.”
The newspaper reported that she advertised her services in a magazine and she charged just £35 for a consultation but then demanded huge sums to be used as the ‘sacrifices’ in Suriname.
There she claimed that doctors would perform rituals around the money before it was sent back with all the victims’ problems resolved – but the money was never returned.
In one especially horrifying case, the report said that a client handed over £176,000 in a desperate bid to fall pregnant.
When she finally conceived, D’Souza told her to have an abortion because her foetus would be grossly deformed and ‘evil’.
Her lies were finally uncovered, along with ‘voodoo black magic’ which included freezers stuffed with rotting meat and an abandoned capuchin monkey which was later adopted.
Many victims were left in financial ruin, with one man ‘as poor as a church mouse’, while the conwoman “remorselessly extracted” more than £200,000 from an elderly woman over several years.
The official amount she defrauded was £908,400, but on the evidence given by victims the final sum was closer to £1million.
Police, the Daily Mail report said, believe the total taken by D’Souza – who had similar previous convictions – could be higher still.
D’Souza’s web was finally untangled in 2007 as she made a series of mistakes which aroused her victims’ suspicions. She claimed to have attended St Hilliard’s College, Oxford, which does not exist and got the name of Princess Diana’s sister wrong.
The woman who had an abortion realised she had been scammed and went to Hampstead police station in north London, but said officers “laughed in my face”.
This left her so angry she forced her way into D’Souza’s home with the help of another victim, who was paying the rent on that property, and three others. Inside they found the voodoo treasure trove – which also included drawings of an ‘evil eye’, burned photos and a brand new barrister’s wig.
D’Souza would give her ‘customers’ detailed instructions about how the money was to be paid – always in cash and in a brown envelope. Part of her system was to demand a full-length photograph from each victim.
One victim – who was told to pay £18,000 or her partner would die – said: “I was absolutely terrified. I was living in fear and doing what I was told.”
Another was 82-year-old former opera singer Sylvia Eaves, who was duped out of more than £350,000 by D’Souza between 1998 and 2010.
Another still was the mother of a ten-year-old boy with Down’s Syndrome who was conned out of £42,000 when D’Souza claimed she could cure his behavioural problems.
The widow, whom the judge described as a “delightful lady”, handed over the money for various reasons including help with a stomach problem and to save her ill sister.
“I’m relieved that she won’t be doing it to anybody else,” one of the victims said after the sentence was handed down. “I feel terribly sad that somebody who is so clever would resort to that, especially as she was a friend of mine. I feel terribly let down that she could behave like that.
“She relieved me of a lot of money but I’m still here. I was gullible, I suppose, but my sister was very ill at the time.”
A couple, who cannot be named, gave tens of thousands to the fraudster after she claimed she could help with their child’s disability and behavioural problems.
Her barrister, Stephen Fidler, told the court D’Souza’s elderly mother had been unwell for a considerable time and she visits her every day.
But the judge told her: “I find no mitigating factors in your case at all.”