2 sought for allegedly taking $62,000 in 'cursed money' in psychic healing scam

The Chicago Tribune/April 21, 2010

When she saw the "for rent" sign in the Far Northwest Side home, a Park Ridge woman realized the mother-daughter team of self-described psychic healers had not taken her money to cleanse it of evil spirits - they stole it.

Laura Santini, 61, and her daughter, Rosann, 35, were indicted this week in Cook County on felony theft charges for allegedly scamming the woman of $62,000. The two haven't been seen in more than a year, authorities said.

"They basically were able to convince the victim that some money she had gotten was cursed money and that somehow that curse had transferred to other money that she had," said Chicago police Detective Milorad Sofrenovic of the Grand Central area. "They told her that in order to be able to remove this curse, they needed to take this money physically to a shrine in Indiana and with prayers drive the curse from the money."

The alleged scam began in early 2007 when a flurry of fliers began peppering car windshields on the Far Northwest Side and nearby suburbs.

"One does not live without problems such as love, health, marriage and business," the flier read. "Why endure them when a gifted psychic can help you with whatever your problem may be?"

It was enough to entice the woman. Recent troubles had left her looking for help, so she began meeting with the two women at their home in the 8400 block of West Castleisland Avenue.

As the meetings continued, they gathered information about the woman - including details about a large sum of money she had recently received. That's when they allegedly told her they needed to cleanse her money, Sofrenovic said.

The woman initially resisted, Sofrenovic said, "but they kept pressuring her to the point that they were telling her that a number of horrible things were going to happen to her and her family if she didn't comply."

Eventually, the woman handed over the money, according to Sofrenovic. And despite increasingly forceful demands from the woman over many months, the money was never returned. The woman realized she'd been had when she saw the for-rent sign at their home.

"The victim is an educated, intelligent, professional person who had a moment of weakness," Sofrenovic said.

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