The East London Regional Court has sentenced three Ugandan traditional healers to a total of 13 years in jail for fraud and theft after they scammed a 63-year-old woman out of her R1.6 million pension money.
Police spokesperson Captain Anelisa Ngcakani said on Tuesday that the incident happened between January and August 2017.
He said the three fraudsters, Jimmy Peter Sellwuju, 27, Mohamed Wamubirigue, 57, and Brian Kibirigue, 32, took the Lusikisiki woman through a series of spiritual rituals.
‘Ancestors would multiply pension money’
They then convinced her to resign from her job as a teacher and give them her pension money for “spiritual cleansing.”
The fraudsters persuaded her that ancestors would “multiply” her pension money. However, they fled with the cash to Port Elizabeth.
Ngcakani said, “Knowing that the pensioner still had more cash in her account, she was instructed to withdraw the remaining R90,000.
“Members of the Commercial Crime Investigation Unit were alerted by an informer about the crime that was about to take place and they managed to stop the transaction and arrest Sellwuju and Wamubirigue as they were waiting outside the bank.”
The Hawks subsequently alerted their police counterparts in Port Elizabeth, who then arrested Kibirigue at a guesthouse.
Fortunately for the ex-teacher, the police found Kibirigue with the cash and recovered it from him. Her identity has not been revealed.
Sellwuju, Wamubirigue and Kibirigue have been in custody since 2017 after the court denied them bail at the time.
Sellwuju and Wamubirigue will now begin their respective six-year prison sentences, while Kibirigue will start a 12-month stint in prison.
A recent Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) public awareness booklet warns the public to be wary of “charming, persuasive and convincing” fraudsters, including cyber criminals.
“Remember, if what anyone is saying sounds too good to be true, it is most likely not true. This includes that a donation to a person or a cause will secure a special reward from a long lost love, an ancestor, a religious leader or a spiritual healer,” FIC says.