San Mateo 'psychic' sees her future: six years in prison

San Mateo Daily News/March 7, 2009

A San Mateo psychic who swindled an elderly woman out of more than $80,000 through "special prayers" and Tarot readings was sentenced Friday to six years in prison by a judge who called her "despicable."

San Mateo County Superior Court Judge James Ellis said he wished he could sentence Janet Adams, 46, to more than the maximum allowed state penitentiary sentence. Under a deal with prosecutors, she pleaded no contest in February to one count of felony fiscal elder abuse. She was guaranteed no more than six years of incarceration in exchange.

Through her attorney, Robert Byers, Adams apologized to the court and to four of her victims who testified prior to the sentencing.

Ellis also ordered Adams to pay $312,000 in restitution to the 85-year-old woman she defrauded throughout 2008 by gaining her trust and performing psychic readings. Prosecutors said Adams told the woman she needed $13,000 for "special prayers" to save her husband from an impending fatal heart attack.

On the next visit, Adams convinced the woman to give her $9,000 to cover medical expenses for her own husband, who she claimed was in the hospital and about to die.

Adams later got the woman to pay for her son's supposed medical expenses and her husband's supposed funeral costs.

In all, prosecutors said Adams swindled the victim out of $80,330 during a 10-month period, until the elderly woman eventually told her husband about the transactions and they called police.

Adams did not speak during her sentencing. Byers said he thought the sentencing was harsh but understood the judge "certainly wasn't pleased" with his client and that Ellis must have felt he had basis to call her despicable.

"My client was more or less interested in just taking responsibility and moving on, so that's what she did," Byers said about the plea deal.

In recent months, partly because of newspaper reports on the case, several more victims came forward, said Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe. Ellis ordered Adams to pay restitution to eight other victims, but prosecutors agreed in the plea deal not to charge her for those crimes.

Adams, who operated out of the Psychic and Crystal Vision shop in San Mateo's Laurelwood Shopping Center, had served two years in prison after being convicted of fraud committed at a Half Moon Bay pumpkin fair in 2004. Wagstaffe said Adams was ordered to pay $20,000 in restitution for that as well, but never did.

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