Psychic Apparently Fails to Predict Officers' Approach

The New York Times/May 25, 2011

Sylvia Mitchell's next available palm reading will apparently take place in a jail cell, as her own future involves a stack of police complaints that is approaching the size of a tarot deck.

Ms. Mitchell, 36, traded her crystal ball for silver bracelets Wednesday morning shortly before 9 a.m., far from the Seventh Avenue South address where she worked at the parlor of Zena the Clairvoyant.

In fact, the location of the arrest was almost too good to be true: that quaint little Connecticut village getaway called Mystic.

Sylvia Mitchell was arrested Wednesday in Mystic, Conn.

The search for Ms. Mitchell, 36, began last month, when a Florida woman swore out a complaint against her, accusing her of taking $27,000 to help the victim address her attachment to money.

Ms. Mitchell promised to return the money upon request, but did not, the woman told detectives. Eventually Ms. Mitchell returned $10,000, but then disappeared. The woman hired a private investigator, Bob Nygaard, to try to find Ms. Mitchell.

A Crime Scene column addressed the case. Three days later, Mr. Nygaard received a call from an informant in the psychic realm, which has been a subject of his past investigations.

Psychics are apparently as quick to snitch on their competitors as anyone else, and this one said Ms. Mitchell had been seen at a large Maryland wedding.

But as she was wanted only for questioning, with no warrant for her arrest, no action could be taken, Mr. Nygaard said. And detectives in the Sixth Precinct had become consumed with the manhunt for the mugger who beat an 83-year-old man on April 29 on West 12th Street. The victim later died from his injuries.

After the column, other people stepped forward who said Ms. Mitchell had taken money from them. One, a woman from the Catskills in upstate New York, recognized Ms. Mitchell's photo as that of the psychic who took more than $9,000 from her during consultations in her parlor in Mystic over the last several months.

The woman contacted the New York State Police.

A State Police investigator, Diana Benoit, tracked down Ms. Mitchell's new parlor, which had been open for about a year on West Main Street in Mystic, and asked the local police in Groton, Conn., to arrest her.

"Wouldn't it figure," Investigator Benoit said, "that a mystic would be in Mystic?"

Ms. Mitchell gave officers a fake name, and she was charged with criminal impersonation and being a fugitive, said Lt. John Varone of the Groton police.

Meanwhile, it was not quite business as usual Wednesday afternoon at Zena's where the doors were locked and the woman who calls herself Zena was sitting inside and talking on the phone.

As for the Florida woman who started the search for Ms. Mitchell, she may have to wait in line for any potential prosecution. Investigator Benoit said Ms. Mitchell would be extradited to the Catskills to face larceny charges.

"I'm not sending her back to the city," Investigator Benoit said.

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