A Gambian marabout who was jailed in the United Kingdom for conning three women into giving him £150,000 by claiming that he had powers to solve their personal problems is on the run.
Abdoulie Gassama, 36, escaped from HMP Sudbury in Derbyshire on Monday, where he was serving a seven-and-a-half-year jail term.
He was jailed in June 2016 after he was convicted of fraud by false representation.
During the trial, the court heard that Abdoulie Gassama said he needed extra money for expensive rituals – including sacrificing crocodiles and cows.
The “desperate” victims, who feared something terrible would happen if they did not pay up, were “bled dry” with two of them giving the fraudster their life savings.
Gassama then ploughed a large amount of the cash he had extorted into “lavish” property developments in the Gambia.
Gassama, 34, of Offenhan Covert, Kings Norton, had previously pleaded guilty to 19 charges of fraud and one of money laundering,
Ben Mills, prosecuting at Birmingham Crown Court , said Gassama had advertised his services, claiming to be a faith healer, over a 13 month period, between May 2014 and June 2015.
He would give himself different Sheikh names and the adverts would be accompanied by photos of someone wearing spiritual clothing who was not him.
Mr Mills said Gassama claimed he could help people with emotional problems: “When you look at the words in the advert he was plainly targeting people who were emotionally vulnerable.
“He is 34 but he was claiming to have 40 years experience of faith healing.
“Over that period of 13 months three ladies who found themselves in a state and emotional turmoil and desperation each contacted him.
“Each of them were systematically defrauded by him.”
Mr Mills said the women initially pay the defendant a small amount so he could carry out “tests.”
But he then demanded larger and larger sums claiming he needed to carry out prayers, needed materials for various rituals or had to sacrifice “exotic” animals.
Mr Mills said if any of them began questioning his authority he would warn them that failure to pay could lead to “terrible” things happening to them and their families and in one case told one women that she risked her daughter going blind.
He said: “Each of them were effectively financially bled dry. None of them experienced any improvement in their emotional troubles.”
Mr Mills said a large amount of the money had gone through Gassama’s wife’s account and had been spent on living expenses and shopping while some of it had been transferred to the Gambia where it was used for the construction of property.
When his home was later searched police found deeds for land in Gambia and also photos luxury properties in various stages of construction.
He said the first victim, who had seen Gassama’s advert contacted him because her husband had left her but she was desperate to get him back.
She visited him at an address in Malvern Road, Handsworth , where he greeted her dressed in flowing robes and lead her upstairs to a room with prayer mats and photos of various gods and religious images on the walls.
Gassama made increasing demands of cash from her claiming he needed to sacrifice three crocodiles and seven cows and she handed over a total of £5,000.
The second victim, who sought his help after going through a painful separation and who was trying to get her children back, paid Gassama £8,000.
Mr Mills said the third woman, who wanted to cure her husband of his alcoholism, gave Gassama £130,000 after he constantly put pressure on her and ended up selling her house to meet his demands.
In a statement she said she had been put through a “massive amount of emotional stress.”
She went on “I put all trust and faith in that man. I was worried, scared and felt at risk.
“I have been left heart broken, depressed and close to having a nervous break down. It has had a profound effect on my relationship with my family.”
In passing sentence Judge Nicholas Dean QC said: “You are not a faith healer. You are a charlatan and a fraudster.
“You preyed on the vulnerability of your victims extorting large sums of money. You have caused immense and long lasting distress.
“The cynical callousness of your behaviour, particularly towards the third victim, was staggering.
“You cared nothing for the feelings of your victims. You cared only about extracting as much as you possibly could out of them.”
Rashad Mohammed, defending, said: “It spiralled out of control. It was easy pickings and he carried on taking the money.”
Coun 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.”