Posted on: December 9, 2022, 03:42h.
Last updated on: December 9, 2022, 04:58h.
Two gambling Miami “fortune tellers” conned a gullible victim out of more than $3 million by claiming her money was “cursed” and would have to be “spiritually cleansed” via a special healing ritual. Even more incredibly, the unnamed victim was a financial advisor, according to court documents.
Unbeknownst to the victim, the mysterious rite involved numerous high-stakes transactions at the Mandalay Bay Casino in Las Vegas, which is one way of “cleansing” money.
This week, a federal judge sentenced Samantha Stevens, 51, and her husband, Michael Paul Guzman, 42, to 30 and 32 months, respectively, for money laundering. The couple took a plea deal to swerve more serious charges of wire fraud and conspiracy that came with sentences of up to 20 years.
‘Cross My Palm With $3.1M’
The court heard that Stevens styled herself as a psychic medium and healer who was blessed with powers to remove curses affecting her clients’ personal lives and relationships.
Stevens first met the victim in her “psychic booth” around 15 years ago, according to court documents, and she became a client.
In or around September 2010, Stevens explained to the victim that all her problems could be explained by a curse that had been placed on her family because its fortune was “dirty.”
Stevens also told the victim her father’s soul was “trapped before the gates of heaven.” This wasn’t as bad as it sounded, she consoled, because she could remove this impediment to his salvation by cleansing more of his dirty money, according to court documents.
However, she cautioned that failure to provide more money would almost certainly result in further misfortune for her family.
In 2016, the victim informed Stevens that she had run out of cash. What little she had left she needed to look after her ailing mother, she said, per court filings. At this point, Stevens broke off contact.
The victim later spoke to her lawyer, who contacted authorities. Stevens and Guzman were indicted by a federal grand jury in December 2020.
Stevens argued in court that the ceremonies were an expression of her religion as a person of Romani heritage, citing her First Amendment rights.
US Magistrate Judge Edwin Torres was not buying it. The First Amendment is not a shield against committing a crime, and there were “plenty alternatives for Stevens to practice her religion without engaging in a scheme to defraud,” he added, as reported by Miami New Times.
Guzman, who also styles himself as a “psychic expert” on Instagram, received a slightly longer sentence than his wife because of his rap sheet, which includes battery and drug offenses.
The pair were also ordered to pay $3.2 million in restitution to the victim.