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Bogus faith healers under investigation after landmark case

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A bogus spiritual healer who conned his victims out of hundreds of thousands of pounds was not an 'isolated case', officials have warned. Mohammed Ashrafi tricked people into believing he was a holy man who could help them win the lottery – as long as they gave him tens of thousands of pounds. The 50-year-old was jailed for nine years yesterday after he was convicted of 15 offences of fraud and one of blackmail. The jury at Leicester Crown Court heard that Ashrafi – who went under the name Kamal-Ji – used sleight of hand and magic tricks to establish his credentials as a healer. The Leicester Mercury has learned other suspects are now under investigation by Leicestershire Police and trading standards officials. An unknown number of tricksters are operating in the city, advertising in foreign language newspapers or by putting business cards through letterboxes or leaving them on car windscreens. Many claim to be able to use prayer to lift curses, heal broken marriages and solve financial problems. Others say they can cure illnesses including cancer and HIV. Inspector Ben Gillard, commander of the East Area Neighbourhood policing area, which is covered by Keyham Lane and spinney Hill Park police stations, said: "I am sure there are other people out there who were either victims of this man or of similar conmen. "Those people may be reluctant to come forward to tell us what has happened to them. "People like Ashrafi rely on people's reluctance to speak out because it allows them to continue exploiting people. "Hopefully, as more cases like this come out people will learn the risks of turning to these people. "We have a number of active investigations ongoing. "It is not only an issue of police enforcement, it's also about education and awareness. "These people advertise their services by putting leaflets on cars or through doors. There is also an element of word of mouth recommendations. "Our advice is: if you have money worries, talk to someone like the Citizens' Advice Bureau, if you are concerned about your health talk to your GP or if you have relationship problems there are professional and accountable counseling services." Roman Leszczyszyn, head of regulatory services for Leicester City Council, said: "We are pretty sure this is not an isolated case in Leicester. "Rogue faith healers operate not only within the community but also by targeting vulnerable people from afar by post and email. "Instances are under-reported because victims do not realise that they have been duped. Our advice is 'don't get involved'. "Sadly, it is a fact that potentially vulnerable people will often not pay attention to advice from official bodies. "It's therefore very important that family members, friends and community leaders – people who are trusted – intervene and advise individuals against getting involved and also report these matters to the police, Crimestoppers, Trading Standards or Action Fraud. "We and the police are working together to raise awareness of the dangers."

Bogus faith healers under investigation after landmark case

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