Charge: Issaquah psychic caught in money 'cleaning' scam

Seattle Post-Intelligencer/May 21, 2013

Wonder if she saw this coming.

An Issaquah psychic accused of bilking nearly $30,000 out of one customer now faces felony theft charges.

King County prosecutors contend palm reader Paula Ann Adams persuaded a woman to lend her thousands of dollars worth of Nordstrom gift cards, which she was caught on camera spending hours later. One of the palmist's associates is also alleged to have offered prosecutors $4,000 in an apparent bribe.

According to charging papers, Adams, 36, used a well-worn scheme to bilk a woman who'd come to her seeking spiritual guidance.

The basic scam consists of a victim, usually in a vulnerable state, who seeks the help of a psychic palm reader to help them with a relationship problem, Bellevue Detective Shelby Shearer told the court.

The con artist charges a moderate amount of money for the first reading, then tells the victim her money must be "cleansed" because it is the cause of the trouble.

At the con artist's urging, the victim cashes out her bank accounts and performs a series of rituals meant to rid the money of evil. Doll and candles are usually involved, Shearer told the court.

The victim is then cleaned out when she delivers the money to the psychic for a final cleaning.

Bellevue police began investigating Adams in February following a report that she'd taken $25,000 from one woman.

Speaking with police, the woman explained she was in the midst of a divorce and seeking spiritual guidance when she stopped in at Adams' shop on Issaquah's Front Street for her first reading.

According to charging papers, the woman visited Adams 12 times, paying her hundreds of dollars for the readings. She also brought $25,000 in cash and $4,000 in Nordstrom gift cards to Adams for "cleansing."

Investigators later learned Adams went on a shopping spree in the days after the woman gave her the cards. According to charging papers, Adams actually exhausted six of the eight $500 cards the night she received them.

In a series of text messages, the woman demanded Adams return her money and property. Bellevue investigators then conducted an undercover investigation targeting Adams.

Posing as a customer, a detective met with Adams at her storefront. According to charging appears, Adams offered to clear the detective's chakras for $500.

Officers raided Adams home and office on March 5, seizing designer clothing and jewelry alleged to have been purchased with the stolen gift cards. Investigators also seized keys to two safety deposit boxes in which they later found $1,500 in cash that was seized as evidence.

Writing the court, Deputy Prosecutor Christine Keating noted an associate of Adams who described himself as a "gypsy tribunal counsel leader" contacted prosecutors on May 7 and offered to deliver a $4,000 check to "make this go away."

Shearer noted the scam – like many other confidence schemes – is meant to create a situation where the victim feels they have not been criminally abused. Even when such thefts are reported to police, they're often handled as a private matter.

"When the victims report these crimes to the police, they are sometimes viewed as a 'dissatisfaction of service' or 'a civil issue' because a basic service was provided," Shearer told the court. "It is this creation of a civil issue that is part of the deception of theft."

Adams has been charged with one count of first-degree theft and five counts of second-degree theft. She is not jailed.

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