San Mateo 'psychic' pleads no contest to swindling elderly woman out of more than $80,000

Palo Alto Daily News/February 7, 2009

A San Mateo woman pleaded no contest Friday to charges of swindling an elderly woman out of more than $80,000 during psychic and Tarot readings.

Janet Adams, 46, changed her December not-guilty plea after prosecutors said they were prepared to file charges on behalf of two more victims, San Mateo County Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said.

She now faces a maximum sentence of six years in state prison and will pay restitution to all three victims, Wagstaffe said.

Prosecutors say Adams took $80,330 from an 85-year-old female client after telling the woman that her husband would die of a heart attack if she didn't pay for "special prayers."

Adams also told the woman her own husband and son needed cash for medical treatments, according to prosecutors.

Adams later said her husband died and demanded money from the female victim for funeral expenses, Wagstaffe said.

This wasn't Adams' first brush with the law. She served two years and paid $22,000 in restitution for two felony theft convictions in 2004 for swindling at a Half Moon Bay pumpkin fair, Wagstaffe said.

A number of victims approached police after Adams' Dec. 18 arrest, but prosecutors could only press charges in cases with "intrinsic fraud," Wagstaffe said.

"When you get a quid pro quo - 'your husband will die if you don't give me money,' what she's saying is, 'I will prevent it from happening,' and that's the falsehood," Wagstaffe said. "She can't prevent the husband from dying in two weeks unless she has some powers we don't know about."

If that was the case, "she probably wouldn't have pleaded no contest," Wagstaffe added.

Robert Byers, Adams' attorney, said his client changed her plea because "she wanted to take responsibility for her actions.

"She feels bad for the harm she has caused" to the victims, Byers said. "She's upset that she has kind of dragged other fortune tellers through the mud, and their names were hurt."

Dianna Czellecz, one of the women who went to police after Adams' arrest, said the psychic took at least $1,000 from her while she battled alcoholism last year.

Czellecz said news of Adams' plea gave her "the chills in a good way.

"I'm going to have a really good weekend now," Czellecz said. "She so deserves it."

A judge will sentence Adams on March 6.

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