New York ‘Psychic’ Gets Long Prison Sentence


This is the latest in a series of high profile criminal cases being brought against “psychics” for fraud. A con woman from Manhattan has been sentenced to five to fifteen years in prison, which was actually longer than the prosecutors had requested.

Sylvia Mitchell, the Manhattan fortuneteller whose ornate Greenwich Village parlor and air of uptown sophistication attracted well-to-do, distraught clients who preferred the finer things in life, was sentenced to five to 15 years in prison on Thursday, a month after a jury convicted her of grand larceny.

In handing down the sentence, Justice Gregory Carro of State Supreme Court in Manhattan acknowledged that the penalty was harsher than that requested by prosecutors at Thursday’s hearing. The Manhattan district attorney’s office had requested a sentence of three to nine years in prison.

“You had a perfect setup,” Justice Carro said. “We have lots of con artists here in New York City,” he said, citing three-card monte dealers and those who pretend their glasses were just broken by a stranger who bumped into them on the street.

But Ms. Mitchell lured “someone who is having some dramatic stress in their life, some great problems they were going through, looking for some kind of help,” the judge said.

Insert the obligatory “I bet she didn’t see that coming” joke here. But what exactly is the difference between what this woman did and what faith healers and TV evangelists do every day? The only difference is that Benny Hinn and Pat Robertson rake in more money than this woman could ever dream of.

Comments

  1. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    Bet she didn’t see that coming.

    (Hey, you can’t blame me, it was predicted and sure enough you can’t fight prohphecy can you now!)

  2. Trebuchet says

    Meanwhile, the bank executives responsible for the financial crisis of 2008 are still living it up in their mansions.

  3. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    A con woman from Manhattan has been sentenced to five to fifteen years in prison, which was actually longer than the prosecutors had requested.

    Excellent news and well deserved. Con-artist vultures like Sylvia Mitchell are contemptible crooks indeed. Anyone who fleeces the vulnerable and and causes them so much emotional pain like that should get harshly treated.

    ..what exactly is the difference between what this woman did and what faith healers and TV evangelists do every day? The only difference is that Benny Hinn and Pat Robertson rake in more money than this woman could ever dream of.

    Not all that much difference.

    Specifics of names and occassions and sources of claimed “authority” I ‘spose.

    Antagonistic ideas of afterlifes and differing mythologies being exploited. But yeah, same diff really.

    Reminds me of the great line :

    “Well, the God I believe in isn’t short of cash Mister!” – U2, ‘Bullet the Blue Sky’ song. (I think?)

  4. kmareld says

    Had my palm read once 31 years ago. The ‘Psychic’ shuddered and said I was going to become very ill soon and that was sorry to tell me the bad news. That was 31 years ago. I’m still OK. She cost $2.00 at a Rennassiance Pleasure Faire. I guess you get what you pay for. I never could figure the point of her scam. She just wanted people to feel bad and be fearful?

  5. Artor says

    @Kmareld
    I’m going to try my psychic powers here and predict that the palm reading you got was in Veneta, Oregon? How’d I do?

  6. timpayne says

    Given that she was offered a plea bargain with no prison time at all, this ridiculous sentence is really not punishment for the crime, but for pleading innocent.

  7. Sastra says

    kmareld #6 wrote:

    I never could figure the point of her scam. She just wanted people to feel bad and be fearful?

    Since it was a ‘psychic’ at a Renaissance Faire, my guess is that she was what is known in the cold-reading trade as a “shut-eye.” Meaning, she doesn’t realize that she’s doing cold reading tricks and instead really believes that she’s psychic. She told you that you were going to become very ill very soon because she either read that into your palm using her self-selected rules or she used her “intuition” and made a plausible guess. She might even have been projecting her own concerns on to you. She felt so bad … but you had to know. Otherwise, as you point out, it makes no sense.

    A few years ago a producer had a couple of skeptics and was looking for some ‘psychics’ to agree to come on a tv show and be tested. So a few investigators were sent out to knock on doors and see who they could drum up. All the storefront psychics turned them down flat: these were professionals and iirc mostly gypsies and were under no illusion about their so-called powers. But one of them suggested that the investigators try a local New Age bookstore.

    That’s where they found their test subjects (who of course totally bombed on camera.) New Agers aren’t con artists in the usual sense of the term because the first person they’ve fooled is themselves. They’ve then been additionally fooled by lots of feedback from an easy, credulous, accepting culture till they’re both convinced and confident. Shut-eyes.

  8. says

    But what exactly is the difference between what this woman did and what faith healers and TV evangelists do every day?

    I feel compelled to state the obvious: The latter two have more influence on the government and cultural immunity.

  9. kmareld says

    As to where it was. Right coast, wrong state. This was in the Santa Monica Mountains near Malibu, CA.
    As to the veracity of this ‘Psychic’. Given no follow up to extract money. I figured she was a self-deluded New Age Psychic. But even New Agers believing in their own powers I would expect would go after more than the 2 bucks I put in.

  10. macallan says

    Had my palm read once 31 years ago. The ‘Psychic’ shuddered and said I was going to become very ill soon and that was sorry to tell me the bad news. That was 31 years ago. I’m still OK. She cost $2.00 at a Rennassiance Pleasure Faire. I guess you get what you pay for. I never could figure the point of her scam. She just wanted people to feel bad and be fearful?

    Or maybe she was just part of the show with no pretension of her predictions being anything other than random nonsense?

  11. dingojack says

    Just out of interest one of the pop-up ads showing on my screen is for a psychic who is promising to tell me what 2013 will bring. He’d better hurry up*!
    ;) Dingo
    ——–
    * I’m guessing xmas presents, followed by a spectacular fireworks display some 6 days later.

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