The crazy case of the unclean cash
Local investigators get involved after R27,000 sent from US to a prophet to get cleansed but is never returned
An American woman claims to have couriered US$2,000 to a prophet in Pretoria to cleanse her money of evil.
In an e-mail to a local independent financial crimes investigation company, the woman from Dallas, Texas, said she expected the money – the equivalent of just shy of R27,000 – to be returned to her, but had not received a single cent to date.
“I was told that my ex-husband has put negative energy on me and I was asked that when my ex sends me money that I should send that exact amount for it to be cleansed from all negative energies,” she wrote to IRS Forensic Investigations.“For the spiritual cleansing and before I sent the money he (a prophet) said that it would only take him three to four hours to cleanse the money and resend it back to me.”
IRS chief forensic investigator Chad Thomas has not yet established how the woman was able to courier money to South Africa as there has been no further communication.
He has withheld the woman’s identity pending the outcome of the investigation.
Thomas, however, says he is not surprised by her claim.
His company is currently investigating multiple cases in which South African women have been scammed out of hundreds of thousands of rands by “prophets”.
“For quite a few years now we have been investigating variations of the money cleansing scam, which is run by local, Congolese and Nigerian prophets," Thomas said.
The target of the scams are usually wealthy or comfortably off disillusioned wives who believe that their husbands have lost interest in them.“The crux of the scam is for prophets to claim that the source of the problem within the marriage is that the family wealth is cursed.
“In order for the prophet to remedy the situation, the victim needs to provide him or her with a significant amount of cash money that can be cleansed,” Thomas explained.
In Johannesburg's suburbia, “prophets” have rented houses in upmarket areas and converted rooms into makeshift temples where cleansing rituals take place.
Angie Peters visited one of these houses in Johannesburg. Ultimately, she lost R225,000 in a tale that sounds far-fetched – even to her.
In 2016 the project manager accompanied a friend, who was having relationship troubles, to “Prophet Abdul” and “Lady Brenda” in Randburg.
“They asked to speak to me. They claimed that a dark spirit was following me and that I would have to cleanse money based on my and my ex-husband's age. I didn’t believe them and replied that I didn’t have any money.
“But they suddenly started telling me exactly where I had money. I don’t know if they had contacts in the bank, who leaked information to them, but I believed them,” she told Times Select.
Three months later, after several consultations and rituals with the pair in a dark room, Peters's money disappeared from a trunk she had stored it in and was replaced with mud and leaves.When she confronted the pair, they sent her nude photographs of herself, which she was unaware that they had taken during a “cleansing ritual”.
Despite getting the police involved, the pair has not been located to date.
Peters claims that their website is still up and running while their location changes frequently.
Thomas said there were arrests in similar cases and the outcomes of those cases varied.
“It is very important to make a distinction between these con artists and properly registered traditional healers. Traditional healers are registered with the Traditional Health Practitioners Council of South Africa and offer an important service, which is regulated.
“These other so-called ‘prophets’ and ‘witch doctors’ are charlatans of the worst kind," said Thomas.
Police have not yet responded to questions seeking comment.