Two brothers from San Jose who received thousands of dollars by providing treatments as "faith/mystic" healers are facing charges of grand theft, according to San Jose police Sgt. Enrique Garcia.
Police say that John Salazar, 23, who called himself "Master Alexander," and Carlos Salazar, 34, told clients they were cursed and must be cleansed to avoid further consequences, including death. Carlos Salazar was arrested in April; John Salazar remains at-large.
"They would make you believe you were possessed," detective Manuel Jurado said.
The Salazars advertised exclusively in Spanish-language newspapers and radio and claimed that they could solve a host of relationship and personal problems. Police believe the brothers treated "hundreds and hundreds" of people over a number of years, guaranteeing results.
"That's where the problem is," Jurado said, adding that the men committed theft by false pretenses.
The brothers operated their business at 1140 Pedro St. in San Jose, near Lincoln Avenue, complete with a greeter and curtains that blinded the windows. Wearing robes, the brothers would perform tricks - such as turning water into a red substance they said was blood - that made clients believe they were possessed, Jurado said.
Jurado said the brothers were entangling three religions: Wicca, Catholicism and Santeria.
Police began their investigation in August, after receiving reports that a woman had paid John Salazar $10,000 to help her infant daughter. Police say the woman called the phone number advertised and made contact with an organization called Comunidad Esotorica.
According to police, the woman was told by John Salazar that her daughter was cursed and needed to be saved. To do that, Salazar allegedly said he must return to her village in Latin America and gather artifacts to perform the cleansing. The woman paid Salazar more than $10,000 over a month-long period, emptying her and her husband's bank account.
"That was the tip of the iceberg," said Jurado, who added that other victims who came forward "lost big money."
The Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office has charged the men with five counts of grand theft and one count of attempted grand theft. In April, Carlos Salazar was arrested in Houston after returning on an international flight from Colombia. John Salazar, who was scheduled to self-surrender in April, according to Jurado - is still outstanding and has a $100,000 arrest warrant. He could still be working as a faith healer in the Bay Area, police said.
Jurado said the men claimed to go to Colombia to get "re-energized."
"It's going to be an interesting case, dealing with religion and faith," Jurado said.