Kenner psychic is arrested, accused of taking $10,000 from woman to cleanse 'curse'

The Times-Picayune, Louisiana/March 7, 2013

Fortuneteller April Stevens allegedly told her victim, "Money is the root of all evil." It's an old adage that has seemingly proved true, according to Kenner police, who say Stevens relieved the woman of $10,000 in a scam to "cleanse" the cash and remove a curse.

Kenner detectives arrested Stevens, 20, of Harahan, and booked her with theft of $1,500 or more, according to arrest reports. She is accused of never returning the money to the victim after she "cleansed" it, said Sgt. Brian McGregor, spokesman for the Kenner Police Department.

Stevens operated a psychic and fortune telling business at 3116 Williams Blvd. in Kenner, arrest reports said. The unidentified victim told detectives she began sessions there in July 2012. Stevens told the woman she was cursed and that if nothing was done, the curse would continue causing trouble: It could make her ill and possibly even kill her, the arrest report said.

Police say Stevens used sleight-of-hand tricks and performed ritualistic ceremonies to convince the woman that she was in mortal danger. After telling the woman that "money is the root of all evil," Stevens allegedly convinced her to give her $10,000 so it could be placed in "the church" and cleansed, the arrest report said.

The woman's money was supposed to be returned to her after it had been purified, McGregor said. But after several months, Stevens still hadn't returned the money.

When the woman asked for her cash, Stevens allegedly told her it was not yet completely cleansed, according to the report. By January, the woman had had enough. She told Stevens she didn't care about any curse and demanded her money back. Stevens returned a portion of the money because the woman said she needed it to cover an emergency expense, the report said.

But the woman finally reported the theft to police. McGregor said Stevens was arrested, accused of stealing about $9,000.

Stevens, of 109 Hickory Ave., was booked Feb. 28 at the Jefferson Parish Correctional Center. She was released on a $5,000 bond. No one answered a telephone call to the number linked to Stevens' business on Thursday.

Some may question why Stevens was booked with theft if the woman gave the money to her freely. McGregor said the state's theft laws include the taking of anything of value by fraudulent conduct, practices or representations.

"Here, you have an incident in which she was given something to hold, money, with the understanding that it will be returned," McGregor said. "You fail to return the items when requested by the victim, thus permanently depriving them of their rightful property."

This isn't the first fortuneteller/psychic arrested by Kenner police. In 2009, Debra Marks, a "psychic reader" accused of taking $51,645 worth of jewelry and money from a woman under the same cleaning pretense, was arrested. Marks pleaded guilty to theft in 2009 and was sentenced to five years of probation, Jefferson Parish court records said.

Police arrested a relative, Sonya Marks, in 2006, for an almost identical scam that cost a concerned family $30,000. She pleaded guilty to theft in 2007 and was sentenced to six months of inactive probation, court records said.

McGregor said some fortunetellers exploit others who have turmoil in their lives. "They seek help and then are scammed out of money and or property," he said.

Detectives aren't sure, but they suspect Stevens could have other victims.

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