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Another Psychic Arrested for Fleecing Clients

Another “psychic” has been arrested for defrauding clients, this time in Crestline, California. This time the “psychic” told a client that she could remove a spirit that had attached itself to her if she brought her more than $9000 in cash in particular denominations:

Cindy Uwanawich, 56, was arrested Friday after the self-proclaimed psychic allegedly didn’t return an undetermined amount of money to a client in December, according to a sheriff ’s press release.

Uwanawich, who operates The Psychic Door on Lake Drive, invited the alleged victim to the psychic’s home on Dec. 17, where the victim paid the psychic $50 for two readings, the release said.

The psychic told the victim that she had the spirit of a person who had drowned attached to her, and if she gave Uwanawich nine pennies, nine nickels, nine dimes, nine quarters and $9,000 for nine days, the spirit would be removed, officials said.

As always, I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, this woman is clearly a fraud and that is what she committed. On the other hand, it’s really no different than a prosperity gospel preacher telling his followers that God will heal them if they just “plant their seed of faith” by giving them money. And that’s not so different from any other false religious claim, which puts the government in the business of deciding which religious claims are true and which are false. And that’s a very dangerous thing (not to mention unconstitutional).

Comments

  1. says

    puts the government in the business of deciding which religious claims are true and which are false

    Nah, it’s just like anything in the real world: if you make real world claims about your product, those claims should be demonstrable. Otherwise your customers ought to be able to accuse you of ripping them off. If someone sells a “detergent” that “kills 99% of bacteria” and it turns out to do nothing, that’s exactly the same as someone who sells intercessionary prayer that turns out to do nothing.

  2. says

    And that’s not so different from any other false religious claim, which puts the government in the business of deciding which religious claims are true and which are false. And that’s a very dangerous thing (not to mention unconstitutional).

    How could that be? The government has no choice but to differentiate between what is true and what is false, and that can’t help but run right over any religious beliefs which happen to state the contrary.

    Hell, Ken Ham being in prison amounts to the government saying his religious belief that he is not required to pay taxes is false. Since literally any belief can be religious, I don’t see how it could be unconstitutional for the government to take positions on the truth or falsity of those beliefs when they intersect with the business of governing.

  3. says

    Ken Ham being in prison …

    That’s Kent Hovind.

    It’s a fine line to walk but, if something is illegal (such as tax evasion, posession or sale of peyote, etc.), you generally cannot claim an exemption from the law based on your religious beliefs. The freedom to practice religion does not include the freedom to break the law. The believer’s recourse is to try to change the law to include an exemption for such activity.

  4. stevebowen says

    “Ken Ham being in prison …

    That’s Kent Hovind. ”

    As well as I new that, I had to check it out just in case a celebration was in order.

  5. Abby Normal says

    Given the presumption of innocence, wouldn’t the government have to prove that the home wasn’t haunted before it could find the psychic guilty of fraud?

  6. dingojack says

    John Pieret – I thought there were exceptions for certain kinds of drug possession in cases were a genuine adherence to a religion, that uses them as part of their religious belief system, could be demonstrated.
    Dingo

  7. some bastard on the net says

    …nine pennies, nine nickels, nine dimes, nine quarters and $9,000…

    Chump change, chump change, chump change, chump change, LIFE SAVINGS!

    Well, that escalated quickly.

  8. The Lorax says

    Anyone else notice that she’s not really being caught for lying about being a psychic, but about not giving the dude back his money? They didn’t catch her because she’s a fraud, they caught her because she kept cash that she promised she’d give back.

    If she had given back that money, she’d probably still be operating.

  9. Michael Heath says

    Ed writes:

    As always, I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, this woman is clearly a fraud and that is what she committed. On the other hand, it’s really no different than a prosperity gospel preacher telling his followers that God will heal them if they just “plant their seed of faith” by giving them money. And that’s not so different from any other false religious claim, which puts the government in the business of deciding which religious claims are true and which are false. And that’s a very dangerous thing (not to mention unconstitutional).

    I don’t think it’s unconstitutional. If a contract, including unwritten ones, are made and one side defrauds the other, than the government has an obligation to provide a forum for justice – at least as a civil suit.

    I think it’s politically imprudent to currently advocate for statutory laws which criminalize promises made by religious leaders which have them conning their sheep out of money. But I do think we can and eventually should draft such laws where no amendment to the Constitution is needed.

  10. Abby Normal says

    Lorax, I don’t see anything about her promising to return the money. It says she failed to retrun it. But it doesn’t state the reason the client requested it.

    I know the con your describing is a common one. So that’s probably is what’s going on. But, unless I missed something, it’s not clear from the article.

  11. dingojack says

    Abby – did you miss:
    “Cindy Uwanawich, 56, was arrested Friday after the self-proclaimed psychic allegedly didn’t return an undetermined amount of money to a client….”
    and
    “[Uwanawich claimed that] if she [the client] gave Uwanawich nine pennies, nine nickels, nine dimes, nine quarters and $9,000 for nine days, the spirit would be removed, officials said.”

    [Emphasis mine in both of the above]

    Sounds pretty simple to me. Uwanawich promised to hold an amount of cash ($9003.69) for a period of nine days and then return said amount to the client, except she didn’t. And, it seems it wasn’t the first time she had done this.

    Dingo

  12. says

    To be fair, clients have the best wool.
     
    John Pieret “Ken Ham being in prison …That’s Kent Hovind.”
    How do you know? Where you…there?*
     
    * This Ken Ham moment provided by Modusoperandi.

  13. Sastra says

    Well, the psychic promised that if her client gave her the money then there would not be the spirit of a person who had drowned attached to the client — and by golly the spirit of a person who had drowned is NOT attached to the client! You cannot prove otherwise. Nor do you believe otherwise. The psychic was right.

    I agree with the commenters above, though, who point out that this particular case isn’t a matter of determining if spirits are real or not: it’s about a promise to return money not being kept, and fairly clear-cut.

  14. Rip Steakface says

    It’s a bad situation when Uwanawich but you get a psychic instead.

    That pun made me facepalm so hard my fingers are currently wriggling out of the back of my skull.

  15. davidhart says

    Dingo@6: The American Indian Religious Freedom Act creates exactly the sort of legal exemption that Pieret was talking about – with the bizarre proviso that not only do you have to be taking part in a ‘bona fide’ religious ceremony, you also have to be a Native American … making it an explicitly racist drug law, which protects a minority group (as opposed to most current drug laws, which are implicitly racist, or consistently applied in a racially biased manner which persecutes minority groups). One of life’s little ironies.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Indian_Religious_Freedom_Act

  16. ah58 says

    “This time the “psychic” told a client that she could remove a spirit that had attached itself to her if she brought her more than $9000 in cash in particular denominations:”

    Isn’t this exactly the scam that Scientology uses? Give them money and they’ll remove your body thetans. Of course, they don’t promise to give the money back.

  17. abb3w says

    Marcus Ranum

    Nah, it’s just like anything in the real world: if you make real world claims about your product, those claims should be demonstrable.

    Perhaps require labeling by what standards something holds up? IE: “We can demonstrate this repeatably in the courtroom with 99% reliability”; “we can demonstrate this statistically”; “we can’t demonstrate this except subjectively”; et cetera.

  18. says

    Dingo @ 8

    I haven’t kept up on the subject but the reason I mentioned peyote was there was a SCOTUS case that ruled that the religious use of peyote wasn’t an exception to the drug laws. I wasn’t aware of the American Indian Religious Freedom Act but that is the way to get around the drug laws, by having the legislature pass an exception.

    Modusoperandi @ 16

    How do you know? Were you …there?

    Oh, great! Now I have an image of being locked in a cell with Hovind! Excuse me while I get some gasoline and burn my brain!

  19. dingojack says

    davidhart – actually one has to be a member of a federally recognised Indian tribe to be an Indian. It is not defined racially at all, if the tribe and it’s elders think you’re a Indian, you are.
    Dingo
    ——–
    H.R 4230
    SECTION 3
    .
    .
    .
    “(c) For purposes of this section –
    (1) the term ‘Indian’ means a member of a Indian tribe;
    (2) the term ‘Indian tribe’ means any tribe, band, nation, pueblo, or other organized group or community of Indians, including any Alask Native village (as defined in, or established pursuant to, the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (43 U.S.S. 1601 et seq.)), which is recognized as eligible for the special programs and services provided by the United States to Indians because of their status as Indians;

  20. Abby Normal says

    DJ, no I didn’t miss that. I interpreted, “for nine days” to mean that on each day for nine days the client would pay the amount specified.

  21. Abby Normal says

    …and by that I mean my interpretation was bad and thank you for revealing the source of my confusion.

  22. aluchko says

    dingojack,

    Yeah, the nine days thing makes this straight fraud and avoids the religious issues. The question is if the psychic was a better con and convinced them to give the cash straight (and then the client realized it was BS and wanted it back) if it would still be a crime. Could bring in a new class of Nigerian email scams where this time the scammer is promising to fend off an evil spirit and it’s now completely legal.

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