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Skin disease woman ‘was duped by singing con man’

A woman suffering from eczema was made to believe she was actually suffering from a contagious skin disease by a conman who claimed to be an expert in oriental medicine, a court heard yesterday.

Raymond Camilleri allegedly took Charmaine Grima’s money after convincing her she had infected him and that he urgently needed an expensive blood transfusion in Mongolia.

Mr Camilleri, 38, from Qawra, is pleading not guilty to defrauding Ms Grima, 30, from Żurrieq, of some €23,000.

The story first came to light in The Sunday Times, after it emerged that Mr Camilleri was advertising his services and assured potential clients that “oriental doctors and trained Maltese staff” would help them look “young and beautiful”.

Sitting in the dock, Mr Camilleri, who also sings karaoke on Youtube, kept getting up and trying to speak to his lawyer as he became frustrated during her testimony.

Ms Grima, who suffered from itchy skin, said she called the number on the advert and Mr Camilleri told her to go to the San Antonio Hotel and take a swimsuit and towel.

On arrival she handed over some €23 and was seen by Mr Camilleri who gave her lotions to treat her skin disorder and slim her down.

The lotions left her worse off since she developed a skin rash. After a month Mr Camilleri phoned her to ask how she was getting on with the products and was surprised to find out she had dismal results.

He suggested she was using them incorrectly and fixed another appointment, this time also examining her breasts.

Mr Camilleri concluded she needed more creams and pills and took a blood sample. He later told her she had a contagious skin disease and needed to keep away from friends and family. His plan, she said, hinged on her feeling guilty about passing on the skin disease.

She said her life took a downward spiral from then on and she started to pay him more visits. They eventually became friends.

After some time they decided to go camping together in Florence and, while there, he told her he had contracted the infection when she bled at night and the blood also ended up on his face. He said he needed to go to Mongolia for a blood transfusion to be cured and needed some €32,000 to fund the trip. She offered to help him by working part-time as she did not have enough money.

By then he had allegedly secured a loan from a certain Charles Saliba and told her he needed to pay him back. He said that her brother had a cleaning company and she could work there. Her salary was given to him to pay off the debt.

Working her full-time employment together with a cleaning job part-time took its toll and she ended up losing her main job.

Mr Camilleri became angry and told her he had no job either and needed to pay Mr Saliba and suggested they re-open the lotion business.

Her father lent them €1,000 and she forked out another €500 to purchase live bacteria and a further €500 for a website. He also conned her out of some €700 for a laser skin machine which she later found out cost €15.

He also claimed he owed money to Anthony Borg, known as Il-Bona, something which she later found out was a lie, she said.

During cross examination, defence lawyer Vincent Galea asked her if she had any pending court proceedings against her. She said she was currently pleading not guilty to fraud and making threats. ­

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