There is a level of evil in the world that makes a person not only capable of deception and greed but that inspires them to take advantage of the trusting and vulnerable people they encounter. Juliette D’Souza is on that level. She posed as a healer, told her clients that she could help them and took their money. By claiming to have access to a magical healing tree in the rainforest of the Amazon, D’Souza, 59, cheated 11 individuals out of a sum of over one million dollars. Her victims had various concerns and health issues regarding themselves and loved ones. Her deeds were brought to trial at Blackfriars Crown Court in London. The false shaman was found guilty of 20 counts of deceptively obtaining property and three counts of fraud. She was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment, the maximum sentence possible. The judge for the trial, Ian Karsten, said during sentencing that this was the worst case of confidence fraud he had ever witnessed.
Karsten was appalled by D’Souza’s lavish spending at the expense of people who were faced with real life worries. He went on to say that she preyed upon their cooperative natures and their fear that something even more horrible would happen to either themselves or someone they cared deeply about. D’Souza used intimidation and threats of dire consequences to get the money from them. The judge even goes so far as to say that D’Souza manipulated her victims to such an extent that they became isolated from family and friends.
One of the ways she mystified her “clients” was by telling them she had shaman friends in the Amazon who had a money sacrifice ritual that could cure any problems. D’Souza promised that the money they gave her would be sent to her friends, who would hang it on a magic tree in the jungle. The swindler had a different kind of ritual in mind, however. D’Souza took their money and spent it on vacations and various luxury items.
The stories of the victims are heartbreaking. One of them was the mother of a boy with Down’s syndrome. She gave D’Souza over $70,000 to cure her 10 year old son’s behavioral issues. A man named Richard Collier-Wright gave her over $11,000 to cure his leukemia. The con-artist-shaman told a photographer with the Sunday Times that his mother, who was sick with cancer, would surely pass away if he did not keep giving her money for the magic tree in South America.
Perhaps the harshest story and greatest example of the evil this woman is capable of, was about a woman who wanted desperately to have a baby. D’Souza took almost $285,000 from her, claiming she could aid her in conceiving. When the woman did become pregnant, D’Souza told her that the baby would be born deformed and that she should have an abortion. The victim described the now convicted criminal as the most evil and cruel person she had met in her life.
Some will say that the victims were stupid and they deserved to be taken advantage of. Perhaps those who would say that have never found themselves in desperate situations. Maybe they have never felt the pain of watching a loved one suffer illness or disability. Naivete and gullibility are not crimes. Taking advantage of the vulnerable and suffering is a crime. Juliette D’Souza will forever be known as a convicted criminal and a false shaman.
Opinion by Stacy Lamy