Fortune Telling: Criminal Behavior?
So-called fortune tellers, or “psychics,” purport to be able to see the future in ways that the rest of us cannot. They set up shop in cities, suburbs and strip malls, inviting customers to spend some time — and some money — to have their futures predicted.
Our Palm Beach and Broward County criminal defense lawyers know that while this practice might seem logically questionable, it can also lead to illegal behavior.
The relationships that fortune tellers develop with their clients is often a close one; many individuals see fortune tellers multiple times per week, establishing a rapport with their psychic that one might have with a very close family therapist or long-time family doctor. Unfortunately, this relationship often times makes the customer vulnerable to fraud on the part of the psychic.
Last year, Florida played host to a first-of-its-kind trial in which a Fort Lauderdale fortune teller was accused of masterminding a $25 million fraud scheme. The woman, and her family, alelgedly duped customers out of millions of dollars over a time span of nearly 20 years. Though the indictments were announced in 2011, the case did not go to trial until 2013, but when it did, history was made.
The defense team argued that fortune telling is constitutionally-protected speech, but prosecutors argued that the woman engaged in fraud by promising to “cleanse” her clients’ money for them, despite the fact that, according to prosecutors, she did not intend to return the money.
The jury agreed with the prosecutors and found the woman guilty of the fourteen crimes she had been charged with, including conspiracy to commit mail/wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, mail/wire fraud and money laundering, etc.
The woman and her family — which came from a long line of gypsies — apparently saw “clients” at a location across from the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan and in an upscale neighborhood right here in Broward County. Prosecutors alleged, during the trial, that the convicted woman and her family preyed on vulnerable individuals who had recently gone through personal hardships and therefore were more open to the seemingly comforting sessions offered by the fortune tellers.
Though she was convicted last year, it was just this year that the woman was sentenced to 10 years in prison for having duped her fortune-telling family’s clients out of roughly $17.8 million. Odds are she didn’t foresee that happening.
If you been arrested for or charged with a crime in Palm Beach, Broward or Miami-Dade County, please contact our criminal defense lawyers for a free consultation by calling 1-888-5-DEFEND (1-888-533-3363).