Los Gatos widow alleges psychics scammed her out of her house, savings

A lawsuit describes how a family psychics convinced a 73-year-old kindergarten teacher her life was in danger and she needed to give them title of her $1.5 million home.

The Mercury News, California/May 1, 2020

By Martha Ross

A retired Los Gatos kindergarten teacher alleges she was left homeless, destitute and emotionally traumatized after she fell victim to a family of self-proclaimed psychics who moved quickly to gain her trust and swindle her out her much of her savings and the home she had lived in for more than 40 years.

In a lawsuit filed in Santa Clara County Superior Court, attorneys for Victoria Nelson, 73, describe how the defendants ingratiated themselves into the life of a lonely, vulnerable and “open-hearted” woman.

Tammy Adams, of Granite Bay, and her daughter-in-law, Michelle Marks, purported to offer Nelson psychic counseling and financial advice while exploiting her faith in psychic healing, her fears about managing her own finances and her concerns about her relationship with a new boyfriend that was growing increasingly volatile, the complaint said.

Adams, 44, and Marks, 27, falsely told Nelson that the government was going to take her house and that her life was in danger, the complaint said. They convinced her to give Adams power of attorney and to sign over the title of the $1.5 million home.

The women also convinced Nelson she should retire from her job, isolate herself from relatives and go into hiding in a derelict “safe house” in a rough Sacramento neighborhood, the complaint said. Nelson spent six weeks in Sacramento before her niece found her and brought her back to the Bay Area.

“She’s a free-spirit who has a very open heart. She’s been a kindergarten teacher for 40 years, and who has been around innocent, wonderful children all the time,” said her attorney Emanuel Townsend of the law firm Cotchette, Pitre & McCarthy.

“Unfortunately, these types of victims are very trusting and fall victim very easily,” he said.

The lawsuit alleges financial elder abuse, fraud, conspiracy and other abuses. The lawsuit also names as defendants Adams’ husband, Jimmy Adams, 44, and Marks’ husband, Angelo Adams, 23.

Among other things, Townsend said his firm hopes to get the deed to the house voided so that Nelson can get back into her home. He said the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office may be investigating, though no one from the office returned emails seeking comment Friday.

Adams did not return a phone call left at her business. KTVU also reported that Adams and her husband refused to be interviewed when a reporter contacted them at their “palatial gated community” in Granite Bay.

According to the complaint, Nelson’s life unraveled over the span of seven months as Adams and Marks told increasingly elaborate lies, including about their ability to communicate with “guardian angels” and Nelson’s  late husband, the complaint said.

Nelson first met Marks and Adams at a Fourth of July Festival in Mount Shasta in July 2019. At the festival and on their websites, the women variously described themselves as mystics, fortune tellers and “intuitive” life coaches, with an ability to contact the spirits of people’s loved ones.

In Marks’ tent, Nelson opened up about her concerns about her boyfriend. When Nelson returned to Los Gatos, she began talking to Marks twice daily by phone and believed they had quickly formed a close bond, the complaint said. Nelson revealed that her husband, who died in 2010, had always handled the couple’s money and she had trouble managing on her own.

By August, Nelson paid for the two women to travel together to Maui, ostensibly as a way to help Nelson figure out whether she wanted to stay with her boyfriend, the complaint said. Nelson was surprised when Marks’ husband, Angelo Adams, turned up and occupied most of Marks’ time.

Following the Maui getaway, Nelson broke up with her boyfriend and took out a restraining order because he was stalking her, the complaint said. Also worried about money, she sought advice from Adams who falsely told her she owed 10 years’ in back taxes. Adams said the only way to keep the house out of government hands was to sign it over to a nonprofit she runs with her husband Jimmy Adams. Eventually, Adams said, the house could be turned over to the Ronald McDonald Foundation for sick children.

Adams promised Nelson she could continue living in the house, the complaint said. That arrangement seemed to work for Nelson until she returned home one day in late 2019 to find she had been locked out, with no way to retrieve any of her belongings. Nelson later learned that Adams had discarded a number of her possessions, including photos of her late husband.

But Nelson remained under the sway of Adams, who told her she should retire from teaching because of the “negative energy” around the school and go into hiding because she was in danger from her boyfriend’s ex-wife, the complaint said. That advice took her to the house in Sacramento where she hid out for six weeks, but in fear and required to sleep on “a stained mattress” on the floor.

“What was done to Mrs. Nelson is sickening and cannot be tolerated,” Townsend said. “We are going to do everything we can to help Mrs. Nelson put her life back together and hold the defendants accountable.”

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