According to a Sun Sentinel article:
A Hollywood fortune teller was sentenced Tuesday to 37 months in federal prison after being arrested again for duping people with claims she could free them from evil spirits.
Bridgette Evans, 33, raked in $1.6 million from clients who believed she could eradicate otherworldly forces causing them misfortune, court records show. She would instruct people to send her cash—and in one case, a Rolex watch—that she would use in a spiritual ritual, promising to return the money once the spirits disappeared. She didn’t.
The article goes on to say that her lawyer tried to argue that Ms. Evans is a victim of the gypsy culture in which she was raised.
This is an example of so many things.
One, indoctrination of children, if the lawyer is to believed. Most children are socialized to realize that doing this stuff is not okay. Some con artists are sociopaths, others simply don’t care that what they are doing are wrong. According to her lawyer, this woman was raised (re: indoctrinated) to think that swindling people is an acceptable way to make a living.
Two, superstitions harming the superstitious. Because the victims of this scam gave credence to superstitious ideas, they were taken advantage of. People think that superstitious thinking is harmless, but this is a compelling example of the harm that can come from superstitious belief. If the victims of Evans’s scheme had dismissed the idea that “otherwordly forces” were “causing them misfortune” they would never have been naive enough to send a stranger money and expect to get it back.
Three, why we need to pursue societal action (not necessarily legal) against those claiming to be psychic. The majority of science-oriented, educated individuals realize that all people taking money for psychic services are frauds. Some of them may truly believe they’re psychic, but most of them consciously use cold-reading techniques or pure trickery. As a society, we need to either entirely reject them or pay them in purely entertainment contexts only. In other words, bringing a “psychic” onto a talk show should only be done for laughs, and not to show the world their supposedly incredible powers. Psychics can be fun at county fairs, but not as legitimate businesses where people expect to hear what will actually happen in the future.
This woman may indeed be a victim of the gypsy culture in which she was raised, but I do not know enough about said culture to judge that. What I can say is that after her first offense Ms. Evans should have attempted something a little more legitimate rather than run another scam. She could have actually played fortune teller for money – while I would still disapprove, that would not constitute mail or wire fraud.