A Birmingham man who claimed to be a successful faith healer and defrauded several women of around £145,000 was jailed for seven and a half years at Birmingham Crown Court today (16 June 2016).
Abdoulie Gassama, of Slade Road, Erdington, pleaded guilty to 22 offences under the Theft Act 1968 and Fraud Act 2006 at a hearing on 22 April 2016.
The 34-year-old, who advertised his services under the pseudonyms Shaikh Jammal and Shaikh Riyad in a number of local and Asian newspapers, claimed to have 40 years’ experience and guaranteed results.
Birmingham City Council brought this prosecution as a result of complaints made to Trading Standards officers between December 2014 and March 2015 from several women who had responded to these advertisements seeking to solve family and financial problems.
Gassama met his clients at a flat in Malvern Road, Handsworth, and would initially charge £20 for the first session, but then asked for extra monies for prayers, special medicines and sacrificial animals including cows and crocodiles.
There appeared to be no set fee structure, with Gassama demanding extra payments ranging from £377 to £17,000 – which led to one woman handing him more than £134,000 over seven months, as he promised her husband would give up drinking.
Cllr Barbara Dring, chair of the city council’s Licensing and Public Protection Committee, said: “This man has cynically exploited three vulnerable women, who sought his help in what must have been very traumatic and trying times.
“Not only did he make, and break, a string of empty promises, he gave them expensive false hope that their situations would improve, if they paid for extra prayers or sacrificial animals.
“Sadly it is easy to be seduced by the offer of a ‘quick fix’ but people should be very wary of paying any individual promising to solve their problems in this manner, instead they should seek advice through professional channels.”
The seven-and-a-half year jail sentence comprises of: 18 months for five offences against victim 1; two years for seven offences against victim 2, to be served concurrently; four years for nine offences against victim 3, to be served consecutively; and 2 years for a money laundering offence.
Birmingham City Council will now pursue confiscation proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Act, which will take place at a later date.
Notes to editors
For further consumer information, visit Birmingham Trading Standards’ webpage www.birmingham.gov.uk/tradingstandards or the Citizen’s Advice Consumer Service website, www.citizensadvice.org.uk/consumer