Psychics Facing Increased Regulation

A rash of psychic swindlers in the U.S. has many towns deciding it’s time to beef up laws aimed at protecting the public from being hoodwinked out of hundreds of thousands of dollars every year by unsavory clairvoyants.

The latest case was reported by Time Magazine and involves the town of Warren, Michigan where fortune tellers must now be fingerprinted and pay an annual fee of $150 – plus a $10 fee for a police background check – in order to practice their “craft” in the town.

“The new rules are among America’s strictest on palmists, fortune readers, and other psychics — and part of a growing push to regulate a business that has never been taken, or overseen, very seriously,” TIME reports.

The new regulations came about after a Warren police officer named Matt Nichols testified before the city council that more and more residents of the town are becoming victims of fortune-telling crime. He claims that at least once a year for the past five years he’s had to try to convince a psychic to return cash or other valuables to clients who used them to pay for spells, free them from curses, or foresee the future. 

Warren is not the only place where psychic swindlers are causing problems. A psychic named Gina Marie Marks recently pleaded guilty in Florida to grand theft and organized fraud after bilking a client out of  $312,926.29. Marks also convinced her client to get a tatoo, which the victim says now serves as “a constant reminder of the psychological abuse I endured at the hands of this false prophet.”

In Virginia, other members of the Marks family of psychics were recently indicted for allegedly stealing millions from life insurance companies. The Virginia Pilot is reporting that Steven Marks along with his brother Mitchell and three other persons attempted to steal $16 million from life insurance companies.  Marks is a well-known psychic who successfully sued the city of Chesapeake several years ago to allow his family to practice their “craft” in the city. The family now runs three fortune telling businesses in the area, but apparently, the money wasn’t good enough. A federal indictment accuses Steven and several  others of taking out insurance policies on older, sick family members and friends based on medical exams conducted on healthy impostors. Several policies were taken out on Alex Marks, another brother, who died in 2005. The family received about $800,000 in insurance payouts.

Another psychic named Janet Adams of San Mateo County, Califiornia recently went to jail for taking $93,000 from an 85 year-old woman. Adams apparently met the woman at a kiosk in a strip mall a year ago and convinced the woman that her husband was going to die unless she came up with $13,000. Adams kept pressuring the woman until the tab was up to $93,000.

Psychic Gina Evans pleaded guilty several years ago to federal wire fraud and money laundering charges for running a psychic hot line scam that robbed clients of hundreds of thousands of dollars.  Authorities say Evans, who goes by at least seven aliases, offered psychic and spiritual advice in advertisements in several national publications, including the National Enquirer, New Woman and Cosmopolitan magazines.

According to researcher Les Henderson and his website, Evans would charge callers a one-time fee of several hundred dollars, and ask them to send additional money or property so that she could cleanse it of the “evil” in the person’s life.  She would promise to return the items once they were purified, but never did.

One of the best known psychics to go down was the famous police psychic Noreen Renier who appeared on many television shows such as The Larry King Show, Good Morning America, The Nancy Grace Show, Inside Edition, and America’s Most Wanted.

In addition to allegedly being able to solve crimes, Renier made a host of fantastic claims, such as being able to communicate with an oak tree who once asked her to extinguish her cigarette,  to see through people’s clothing and to manipulate human energy fields. Police videos show her portraying herself as being possessed by the Zodiac Killer and murder victims. She’s also seen in some of these videos gulping ample portions of alcohol.

Renier is now bankrupt after being successfully sued by science writer, John Merrill, for her many fraudulent claims.

Not all of the cases are high profile. In fact, most of them occur in our backyards every day but we’re unaware of it unless law enforcement becomes involved. Take the case of April S. Uwanawich of the quiet suburban Philadelphia town of Downingtown who was charged last year with scamming a woman out of $23,000.

According to paranormal researcher Jill Stefko, Uwanawich told the victim, Yun Su, that she was unlucky because she was cursed. In order to break the curse, she told Su to put a box under her bed and put coins and cash into it daily. After several weeks, Uwanawich was given the box, which contained $16,320. Several more attempts were made to remove the curse, which amounted to a total tab of $23,000. Su finally complained to authorities who made Uwanawich return the money. She later pled guilty to criminal mischief.

To read more about psychic scams, visit the website of a disgruntled customer who has collected hundreds of stories about psychic scams.

John Merrill has devoted an entire website to the case of Noreen Renier

Our Learn to Discern series contains a booklet on psychis and channelers which contains information on how even the most high-profile psychic swindlers operate. For more information, click on the “New Age Resources” button on the navigation bar above.  



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