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Fortune teller accused in $220,000 scam in Seattle arrested in Canada

10/07 - A 77-year-old fortune teller on the run for eight years after she was accused of scamming a despondent Seattle woman out of $220,000 was arrested in Calgary this week.

Calgary officials said Sophie Evon will be extradited to Seattle within a week to face charges that she stole the money in 1999 from a 26-year-old woman sad from a breakup with her boyfriend.

At the time, prosecutors said Evon and her daughter-in-law ran a psychic parlor in North Seattle when they offered to cleanse some evil spirits for the woman. They prayed, lit candles, burned leaves and persuaded the woman to buy $4,500 in gold coins to repel bad spirits.

They manipulated the victim into tapping her elderly parents' life savings, then vanished with the money, prosecutors said.

In 2003, Evon eluded Toronto police, when they were about to nab her at a psychic parlor as she was running out the back, according to Canadian news reports.

Evon's daughter-in-law, Sylvia Lee, was sentenced to 18 months in 2001, after police arrested her in Toronto. They found her through her common-law husband's Rolls Royce. - Vanessa Ho

Follow-up story by Tracy Johnson.

Fortuneteller gets 1 1/2 years in jail after she bilked brokenhearted woman out of $220,000

04/08 - The 26-year-old woman was so heartbroken over a breakup with her boyfriend that she trusted two Seattle fortunetellers to help her win him back.

Sophie Evon and her daughter-in-law, both self-proclaimed Gypsies, lit candles, burned leaves and convinced the woman that they could break the spell that had supposedly been cast on her ex.

They just needed to borrow her savings so that they could pray over it.

"Through the whole thing, I always had doubts," the woman told a King County judge on Friday. "I thought (Evon) cared about me. ... She was good at sensing my doubts and re-establishing my trust throughout the whole process."

Evon, 79, was sentenced to 1 1/2 years in prison Friday for swindling the woman out of almost $220,000 -- much of it taken from her elderly parents' retirement savings.

The elaborate scam took place in 1999, but Evon ran away with the cash and lived on the run.

The victim, who asked not to be identified, remains overwhelmed with guilt and hasn't been able to tell her parents what happened. She said they live in China and don't know the money is gone.

Through tears, she told Superior Court Judge Nicole MacInnes that she is still afraid to trust people and fearful that everyone will think "what a stupid person I was at that time."

Evon declined to say anything in court. Led into the courtroom by two guards, the winded woman coughed incessantly as her attorney, Edward Becker, said she felt bad about what she had done.

Becker said Evon, who pleaded guilty last month to three first-degree theft charges, had put $5,000 toward paying the woman back and was making efforts toward giving her an additional $15,000.

But Deputy Prosecutor Scott Peterson said the crime was "a very orchestrated psychological ploy that they used ... to gain her trust." He said the women even worked out a "good cop-bad cop" routine to break down her resistance.

MacInnes said Evon had taken no responsibility as she imposed the 1 1/2-year sentence prosecutors recommended instead of the standard three- to 9-month jail term Evon faced.

Evon, who has apparently never had any formal education, was caught in Canada a few years after disappearing with the money.

She faked stroke symptoms in an unsuccessful effort to be found mentally unfit and then escaped again, according to court documents.

She was arrested again in October in Calgary, Alberta.

Her daughter-in-law and partner in crime, Sylvia Lee, received an 18-month sentence in 2001.

Gypsy Psychic Scammers are a Curse on Victims

07/06 - COVINGTON, La. (AP) - A palm reader and self-proclaimed psychic has been put on probation for a year for trying to scam a Slidell business owner out of five-thousand dollars in July 2004.
Lecia Urich, of Kenner, who pleaded guilty to attempted theft of more than 500 dollars, had told the woman that a ritual during which money was buried would help lift a deadly curse.

Urich, who goes by the name "Sister Jackson," also was fined 250 dollars by State District Judge Reginal Badeau.

Authorities say the Slidell woman was not the only victim.

Kenner police said Urich told four customers that their enemies had put curses on them and offered to dispel the hexes for a total of seven-thousand-100 dollars, which she said she would bury in a church or cemetery.

That Love Bug is Possessed

03/20/02 - Two self-described psychics, Sonia Merino, 50 and her daughter-in-law, Nasta Merino, 23 were arrested and charged with five counts each of mail fraud for allegedly conning clients into paying thousands of dollars in fees to free them from bad karma.

The pair advertised in a South Bay newspaper mailer, offering psychic readings for as little as $10 but would then tell clients that additional sessions, ranging up to $20,000, were needed to drive away a curse or some negative spiritual force.

One client told investigators that he gave Sonia Merino more than $518,000 in checks, a 1999 Volkswagen Beetle, a CD player and a personal computer over a three-year period after first going to her for a tarot card reading in 1996 after a failed romance.

He says Sonia told him he needed a series of costlier sessions including a request for $750,000 to pay a group of psychics to conduct all-night meditations on his behalf. One victim was quoted in the affidavit as saying that Sonia Merino threatened to put a curse on her when she refused to pay several thousand dollars for a series of sessions. Another told of being badgered with phone calls every few hours throughout the night.

Sonia Merino also sold clients what she described as "holy water" from the Vatican but analysis showed it was Manhattan Beach tap water, authorities said. Nasta Merino was accused of selling at least one person "holy water" from Ste.-Anne-de-Beaupre, a Catholic shrine near Quebec City, Canada, which is frequented by invalids seeking miracle cures. It, too, came from a local tap.

In addition to mail fraud, Sonia and her husband Steve, 44, were charged with tax fraud for allegedly underreporting $750,000 in income from 1995 through 1999.


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