"It wasn't something I was raised to believe in. I was hesitant," she says. But despite the weird window-dressing, Nadine's message echoed what Wilson had been telling herself: It's time to get your life on track. "That clicked with me."

Wilson was given strict orders. She bathed with sea salts and milk and burned sage in all the rooms of her house. Wilson emailed Hillarie images of the features she wanted: Rihanna's lips, Megan Fox's eyes. She was instructed to scatter flower petals over a white sheet, as well as cash — five $100s, four $50s, three $10s, two $5s, and a single. After wrapping herself in the sheet, she handed over the money for the psychics to cleanse.

Soon, Wilson was tapped for $900 for a set of urns. These were to be sculpted into the body she wanted. Nadine sent her to Saks, J.Crew, and Bloomingdale's; she opened credit cards to buy high-end outfits. The purchases were dropped off to Hillarie to dress the sculptured urns in the clothing. Wilson was promised the clothes back — once the work was complete. When Wilson used a Gucci purse one night before turning it over to Hillarie, Nadine angrily demanded she exchange it for an unused one.

Eventually, the psychic pair discovered that Wilson had been cursed by a Louisiana voodoo priestess hired by the current wife of an ex-boyfriend. New York, the fashion world, the body she wanted, happiness — it all depended on shaking the curse.

Wilson burned through almost $30,000. She maxed out five new credit cards, plus three she already had.

"What are you doing?" she'd plead with herself. "You don't just give people money like this."

But she was in so deep, it was hard to hit reverse. It would mean admitting she'd been gullible enough to step into the trap. "[Psychics] have you do the most embarrassing things," she explains, "because, then, are you really going to tell people about it?"


When the Rose Marks case heads to trial this August, the family matriarch will stand alone. All nine codefendants in her federal case have pleaded guilty. If convicted, Marks faces 20 years in prison.

Jude Deveraux has yet to publicly discuss her time with Marks, but what's known follows a familiar script: Emotionally rocked after a divorce in the late '90s and the death of her 8-year-old son in 2005, the writer reportedly leaned on the psychic for support. In turn, Marks convinced Deveraux her son was marooned between heaven and hell. Along the way, the writer willingly parted with $17 million.

Jurors will have to decide: empathetic victim or idiotic sucker?

"I can't express strongly enough what a monumental effort it takes when attempting to help the victims of fraudulent fortunetellers in South and Central Florida navigate their way through a criminal justice system that is often extremely unsympathetic toward their plight," says Bob Nygaard. "I've had these criminals call me up and tell me Florida is open season for them — they love it. They laugh about it because the prosecutors don't prosecute."

Bald and linebacker-bulky, Nygaard is a private investigator specializing in swindles, particularly cases involving American Roms in New York City and South Florida, the two hotbeds. The retired Nassau County cop gets opposite responses in the two jurisdictions. New York prosecutes these cases. Florida doesn't.

"I've brought three recent cases to the NYPD and the Manhattan prosecutor's office. No problem," he says. "The whole culture of law enforcement down here is a lack of will to do these cases."

Nygaard can pick apart a scam like a mechanic stripping an engine. The frauds often follow a similar structure, he says. To gauge a victim's willingness to follow, psychics will give out a to-do list, each request wilder than the last. To sink the hook, they'll take a grapefruit or egg that the victim provides and swap it with one they've already injected with ink or hair — "proof" of an evil spirit. They'll forbid talking about the work with others. They'll coo praise one minute, then bully with guilt the next.

When the veil drops, victims face financial wreckage. But Nygaard guesses only one out of 50 fortunetelling victims comes forward. "A lot of people call me, and they just want to talk, tell me what happened. But they don't want to go forward. They're too embarrassed. They don't want to see their name in the papers."

Beaming in over Skype from England, Iiyah her head. Her face twists into an embarrassed smile before deflating. She still doesn't know much about "Sienna Miller" or where her $140,000 went — but she never got an Egyptian temple. "It sounds so stupid," she says.

Four years after she was scammed, Iiyah is badly in debt. She's begged for help from police. English police told her to contact authorities in South Florida. She says she buzzed Hollywood, Hallandale Beach, and the Broward Sheriff's Office only to be told this was a civil, not a criminal, matter. She's too broke to sue.

"I don't know who I am after this," she says. "It's been really, really hard."

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22 comments
dontbefooled
dontbefooled

I've got a little test for any supposed psychics out there. This is open only to those that believe that they have psychic powers. 

I have written a random number down on a piece of paper. I am looking at the number right now. I will look at the number again from time to time. Simply channel my thoughts, and tell me the number. 


NayaAerodiode
NayaAerodiode

These fortune tellers are selling hope, and honestly, I'd rather them make the profit from their sales than any of the other purveyors of hope out there - that is, politicians and religious organizations.  At least the fortune tellers only scam the willing, and they only spend the money on cars and vacations, rather than the really destructive things that churches and political organizations do.  If a fool is going to be separated from his money, I'd rather it go to these guys than preachers.

wingedwolfpsion
wingedwolfpsion

Please don't refer to these people as psychics.  They are NOT psychic. They are frauds.  There are many legitimate people out there who are trying to use their abilities honestly.  You may not believe in them, but THEY believe in themselves, and do their best to represent their skills honestly.  (Here's a hint - no one legitimate tells you that you're cursed, and offers to lift it for additional money - they'd either offer to lift it for free, or wouldn't offer at all.  Plus, that sort of thing is pretty rare (depending on where you live).

Also, haven't the Roma been discriminated against enough, without being implicated, as a people, in things like this?  Discrimination against Roma in the US has been less severe than in many other places.  Fueling it is reprehensible.

gypsyhunter
gypsyhunter

sometimes people are in dire need of answers to the problems in their life. When someone is already in a vulnerable place, seeing a psychic for direction may seem like the last resort. Nobody goes to a psychic already knowing that they are cursed. Perhaps they should change their con to something different bc it seems like everyone that goes to them is somehow cursed. While some psychics are not fraudulent and may offer words of wisdom, others are in for the kill. The difference is that these fraudulent fortune tellers are selling false hope to vulnerable people, they are stealing money by false pretense. If what they are doing was not criminal, they would not be arrested and prosecuted. More and more people are stepping up to the plate and going after them. The majority of them chose to remain illiterate and not assimilate into American society. They should go back to where they came from. They truly are disgusting people. If you have not experienced it, DONT knock it!

gypsyhunter
gypsyhunter

sometimes people are in dire need of answers to the problems in their life. When someone is already in a vulnerable place, seeing a psychic for direction may seem like the last resort. Nobody goes to a psychic already knowing that they are cursed. Perhaps they should change their con to something different bc it seems like everyone that goes to them is somehow cursed. While some psychics are not fraudulent and may offer words of wisdom, others are in for the kill. The difference is that these fraudulent fortune tellers are selling false hope to vulnerable people, they are stealing money by false pretense. If what they are doing was not criminal, they would not be arrested and prosecuted. More and more people are stepping up to the plate and going after them. The majority of them chose to remain illiterate and not assimilate into American society. They should go back to where they came from. They truly are disgusting people. If you have not experienced it, DONT knock it!

gypsyhunter
gypsyhunter

sometimes people are in dire need of answers to the problems in their life. When someone is already in a vulnerable place, seeing a psychic for direction may seem like the last resort. Nobody goes to a psychic already knowing that they are cursed. Perhaps they should change their con to something different bc it seems like everyone that goes to them is somehow cursed. While some psychics are not fraudulent and may offer words of wisdom, others are in for the kill. The difference is that these fraudulent fortune tellers are selling false hope to vulnerable people, they are stealing money by false pretense. If what they are doing was not criminal, they would not be arrested and prosecuted. More and more people are stepping up to the plate and going after them. The majority of them chose to remain illiterate and not assimilate into American society. They should go back to where they came from. They truly are disgusting people. If you have not experienced it, DONT knock it!

smdrpepper
smdrpepper

People need to stop being gullible.  What these people did was truly horrific, but there are no laws that can prevent gullible people from giving money to these people.  Psychics do not exist.  If they did, do you think they would be working out of a crappy storefront or house?  

Apply logic.  If it does not make sense, dont take part.

dontbefooled
dontbefooled

@NayaAerodiode These fortune tellers are cleaning out the entire bank accounts of their gullible victims in short order. 

Religious organizations usually take a small portion of your money over time, not all at once. For that reason, I would say that the fortune tells are worse. 

It's a little harder to avoid the government completely, so I'll ignore that point.

I will agree that belief in nonsense, like you get from religion, could lead you to belief systems that will allow you to get fleeced by gypsies. 

Your best defense is to have a world view that comports as closely to reality as possible. 

gypsyhunter
gypsyhunter

@smdrpepper sometimes people are in dire need of answers to the problems in their life. When someone is already in a vulnerable place, seeing a psychic for direction may seem like the last resort. Nobody goes to a psychic already knowing that they are cursed. Perhaps they should change their con to something different bc it seems like everyone that goes to them is somehow cursed. While some psychics are not fraudulent and may offer words of wisdom, others are in for the kill. The difference is that these fraudulent fortune tellers are selling false hope to vulnerable people, they are stealing money by false pretense. If what they are doing was not criminal, they would not be arrested and prosecuted. More and more people are stepping up to the plate and going after them. The majority of them chose to remain illiterate and not assimilate into American society. They should go back to where they came from. They truly are disgusting people. If you have not experienced it, DONT knock it!

smdrpepper
smdrpepper

@gypsyhunter @smdrpepper Its still fake.  There are no psychics and never have been.  All of them are out to take advantage of those people who are gullible and seeking answers for things when they just cannot blame themselves.

Sorry, but ALL psychics are fake and con artists.

dontbefooled
dontbefooled

@wingedwolfpsion @dontbefooled 

Wrong again. You're just talking out your ass again. That's not the scientific method at all. You don't try to prove a negative. 

Psychic phenominon has not been PROVEN. It fails every time they attempt to demonstrate it in controlled scientific tests. That's why rational people discount it. If we believed in every wild assertion because it could not be disproven, we would believe a bunch of crazy stuff, as you appear to. And we would be in the right frame of mind to be ripped off like the poor souls in the stories above.

I'll be happy to change my belief system when new scientific evidence is presented. As for the rest of your screed, it's just more wild-ass conspiracy stuff to be discounted out of hand by rational people. 

wingedwolfpsion
wingedwolfpsion

@dontbefooled @wingedwolfpsion It's never been proven not to, either.  You confuse lack of proof with proof of lack - a common mistake among those who do not understand the scientific method, but are overly fond of their own belief system.  Any scientist would laugh at your statement (that things which are not proven can be discounted).  How incurious of you!  The reality is more complicated than you imagine it to be.  People with ability have far more to lose when proof comes, than they would have to gain.  The reaction of those who do not have ability would not be something any of us wants to see.  As a result, you will find few people with high level ability are willing to put themselves into a lab.  I would point out that our government is still using remote viewing, however.  They seem quite attached to top secret programs utilizing this ability which you discount...  Your confidence makes you the same as any other religious fanatic; make no mistake about that.

dontbefooled
dontbefooled

@wingedwolfpsion @dontbefooled 

Wrong! Psychic phenomenon has never been proven to exist. Until it is, it can be discounted entirely just like any other absurd claim that you want to pull out of your ass.


dontbefooled
dontbefooled

@wingedwolfpsion @smdrpepper @gypsyhunter 

THEY may believe in what they do. That does not change the fact that what they believe in is untrue. If you believe in things that are untrue, then you are a sucker. A sheep ready to be fleeced. 


TBPlayer
TBPlayer

@wingedwolfpsion @smdrpepper @gypsyhunter There may be some people who honestly believe they are "psychic," but if so, they are deluded.  They may not be as morally culpable as the knowing frauds (the vast majority of "psychics," IMHO), but they probably do as much damage.

smdrpepper
smdrpepper

@wingedwolfpsion @smdrpepper @gypsyhunter I agree, they believe in fleecing the gullible from their money.  Show me one bit of evidence that "psychic powers" exist and I will reconsider.  However, since there is no proof of any of these so called "psychics" have done anything but harm, any benefit they may have is purely a placebo.

 
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