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CONVICTION: Theft Under a False Pretense PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Jeff Wagg   

The San Jose Mercury News reports the following:

A 27-year-old woman who allegedly is from a family of fraudulent psychics has been sentenced to 60 days in jail for tricking a brokenhearted woman out of $108,000 and a Corvette, after she promised to rid her of evil spirits.

The conviction was for "Theft Under a False Pretense," which I think is a fine charge to make against those who claim psychic abilities and ask for money to demonstrate them.

But wait! There's more to this story...

It turns out that Lisa Miller, whose conviction is mentioned above, has company in the court house. The article also mentions Lola Miller, her mother-in-law and Danielle Miller, her sister-in-law facing similar challenges.

Lisa Miller's lawyer, Scot Candell said the following:

Being a psychic is perfectly legal. The so-called victim had problems of her own. I believe the amount the victim claimed stolen was inflated. There's no evidence of what the victim lost. Yes, money was paid and a service was provided.'

Interesting comments from someone who should probably know better. We agree that being a psychic is - and should remain - legal. Our problem is... we've never seen an actual psychic, despite offering $1,000,000 for a simple demonstration of such an ability.

That aside, Candell claims "the amount the victim claimed stolen was inflated." Mr. Candell, how much do YOU think your client stole?

At the JREF, we're often asked why we waste our time pursuing something that is just "harmless" fun. Consider that the victim only came forward after hearing that her "psychic's" mother-in-law was arrested with a similar scam. Now consider how many more people will hear about this successful lawsuit. Wouldn't it be nice if that effect snowballed?

I have to give kudos to Lisa Fernandez for not mentioning the name of the victim here. "Psychics" love the fact that if their scam is exposed, the victim is often too embarrassed to come forward. Ms. Fernandez recognized that this victim's courage outweighed her lack of judgement in employing Lisa Miller in the first place, and protected her identity. We will do the same.

So there it is.. if you or someone you know has been taken in by a con-artist pretending to be "psychic," the courts could render judgement in your favor. Have the courage that this victim did, and come forward. And if the JREF can help in any way, we'll try to do so.

 

 

 

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written by dead yeti, December 10, 2008
Only 60 days?

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Yeeha!
written by Ricsuth, December 10, 2008
Agree with above comment that 60 days is too little. Be good if they set a more punitive example.
Hope they got the money and car back!

Love the expression 'Theft under false pretence'. Why is it different to plain Theft I wonder?

Also, cannot agree it should be legal for psychics/mediums to trade uninhibited. After all, someone selling carrots cannot just go round claiming they are cars (o.k. stupid example, but...). Either they should have to take a test to prove their claimed abilities at their own expense (I think we know what the outcome would be) or at very leat have to slap a huge great disclaimer on all promotional material saying that there is no credible evidence for what they are claiming. After all, if we can have health warnings on tobacco, why not wealth warnings on psychos, sorry psychics!!
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written by dead yeti, December 10, 2008
Thanks Ricsuth not often someone agrees with me. smilies/grin.gif

Personally i'm not even happy that they are allowed to trade under the disclaimer 'for entertainment purposes only' which i belive is the current loophole

Surely any psychic is either dishonest or mentally ill? maybe i'm taking that a little far.... no more lunch time beers and coffee overdosing for me

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written by JeffWagg, December 10, 2008
Just to be clear.. I was suggesting that actual psychics be allowed to trade. I don't believe we'll find any soon.
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Theft under a false pretense?
written by StarTrekLivz, December 10, 2008
There is such a thing as theft not under a false pretense?

"Hi, I'm stealing from you. Hope you don't mind. It's for entertainment purposes only, you know."

???
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Theft under a false pretense
written by DKPetersen, December 10, 2008
I am no legal expert, but I think the distinguishing factor between traditional theft and 'theft under a false pretense' is the fact that the victim willingly handed over cash and valuables under a blatant misrepresentation of the services to be provided, rather than the criminal simply taking something from the victim without consent.

This needs to be distinguished, I think, from the ordinary definition of theft, because without this specific definition, a con-artist can simply use the defense that the victim consented to whatever was taken.


I wonder, in this case, if the disclaimer "For entertainment purposes only" was left out of the 'services' rendered to the victim. I suspect that if, on the receipt the 'psychics' provided to the victim(if they even provided one), that statement had been made, the crooks could get out of it. They could probably make the case that the victim had paid to be entertained, instead of having paid to receive psychic advice.

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written by dead yeti, December 10, 2008
Hi Vision,

just a quick question how will you feel if you fail the double blind tests? will you still claim your abilities
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MDC anyone?
written by Ricsuth, December 10, 2008
Well VFF, there is a mill waiting for you to claim so feel free to do so. And the entertainment purposes only disclaimer is a sop. It must be much stronger since there is no evidence whatsoever, anywhere, ever!

Believe in U.K. law a disclaimer has no weight i.e. even with a disclaimer a prosecution can be brought.

There seems to be this unwritten law that stops politicians taking on 'faith'. I am almost certain they know the logical extension of shutting down any faith based activity is a potential precedent for actions to be brought against so called 'mainstream' religions. It's still damaging even if no money changes hands, because it helps to perpetuate the whole malarkey.
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written by Skeptic, December 10, 2008
>>>>Although I have not been incorrect in my information yet

Prove it under controlled conditions, and become a millionaire. Of course, under Randi's tests, vague nonsense of the "I feel you might have problems in your chest area" don't count.
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written by Skeptic, December 10, 2008
>>>>>There must be laws and regulations as to how any alleged psychic may conduct their services,

Indeed so. I believe most of those regulations are to be found in the criminal law code under "fraud".

>>>>>>> and are these people even paying taxes on their income?

Why should they? Since they make their living lying to suckers, they feel no problem with lying to the government about how much money they took from the suckers.
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written by Skeptic, December 10, 2008
By the way, the "for entertainment purposes only" disclaimer always seemed odd to me. Nobody believes it -- you wouldn't pay $800 an hour to Sylvia Browne to hear her tell you vague crap about "energies" if you believed it was really just "for entertainment purposes". For $800, I'd expect a lot more entertainment in an hour, if you get my drift.

No, the only reason people go to psychics is because they believe they're real. Since they aren't, they're either deluded, in which case they should be locked up for treatment for their own protection until they stop seeing visions and hearing voices, or else (most of them) they're conscious frauds, in which case they should be locked up for commiting a felony.
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written by Cuddy Joe, December 10, 2008
VFV... I win every game where I'm the one keeping score too. Do you play poker? Do you realize you're a lawsuit waiting to happen?

RE: "For entertainment purposes only" What do you suppose a 'psychic' tells a mark when they ask what that means, why it's there? Hmmm. Would it be:

a) It means I'm not a real psychic and that what I do for you is just for the fun of it, play-acting in a way, or role-playing, as if it were real. You shouldn't expect any of it to be true or to have any practical value.

b) Oh that. That's just something we have to put up for legal reasons, because of all the nonbelievers out there, you know, skeptics and their ilk. Ah, but you and I, we know better, right? Pay it no mind and let's get down to helping you with your problems and worries. You did bring your checkbook, correct?

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written by VisionFromFeeling, December 10, 2008
Everyone - I've replied to your questions and comments on my thread at http://forums.randi.org/showth...149&page=9
Please post further questions there.
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written by Willy K, December 10, 2008
...a family of fraudulent psychics...


As opposed to those families of real psychics... smilies/tongue.gif
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written by Skeptic, December 10, 2008
>>>>>...a family of fraudulent psychics...

"Fraudulent psychic" is a redundancy, like "closed fist" or "very unique".
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written by BillyJoe, December 10, 2008
Skeptic,

you wouldn't pay $800 an hour to Sylvia Browne to hear her tell you vague crap about "energies" if you believed it was really just "for entertainment purposes". For $800, I'd expect a lot more entertainment in an hour, if you get my drift.

Well, for THAT, she would have to pay me...and a far sight more than $800!

smilies/grin.gif
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Snowballing, really?
written by hughie522, December 11, 2008
Very, very unlikely.

Most believers say something along the lines, "Well that's just terrible this poor woman was taken advantage of by what was obviously a fraud. Fortunately, all the other psychics are completely legitimate and honest and just want to help."

It's almost like when shows like '60 Minutes' do one of theirs, "People May Lie To You To Get Your Money!" like it's shocking.
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written by cwniles, December 11, 2008
Spot on Hughie522....in my opinion this solves nothing as this "victim" has most likely not learned any sort of lesson and still believes in psychics and probably will spend more money on other psychics in the future, possibly ending up in the public funded court system again. Ah well, I guess like God, the government too looks out for children and fools.
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written by Alan3354, December 12, 2008
Keep in mind that 50% of the people are below average.
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written by Alan3354, December 12, 2008
Sylvia Browne is covered with bruises from >10 foot poles.
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60 days?!
written by lennyhipp, December 12, 2008
If i knew i could get $108K and a corvette if i had to spend 60 days in jail to get it, I just might entertain doing it! smilies/smiley.gif

Crazy!

Earth to sentencing judge: Yeah, way to make him regret doing it!
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the con ends later than you'd think
written by Trish, December 12, 2008
Most people believe that the end of the con is the point when the victim realizes that the con artist & their money are gone. I believe that the con continues for as long as the victim is too embarrassed to come forward. A successful con not only separates the victim from their money/property, but also, when described after-the-fact, sounds so ridiculous that the victim realizes that they will look stupid for going along and thus remains quiet about the scam.
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the question I always have when psychics get arrested
written by Trish, December 16, 2008
Didn't they see it coming?
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written by BillyJoe, December 16, 2008
Maybe those who did see it coming - you know, the genuine ones - used that fact to evade being arrested.

(Sorry, jokes rarely prove a point, they are just, well...jokes! smilies/smiley.gif )
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written by Trish, December 16, 2008
If there were genuine psychics, Las Vegas wouldn't exist.
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written by BillyJoe, December 16, 2008
Perhaps psychic powers do not work to self-advantage. smilies/wink.gif
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perhaps psychic powers don't work to self advantage
written by Trish, December 17, 2008
Even if we take out the no-psychic-info-for-profit issue, why are there divorced psychics?

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written by BillyJoe, December 17, 2008
Maybe there are real psychics and those just pretending to be. smilies/wink.gif
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written by Trish, December 18, 2008
BillyJoe, How did I *know* you were going to say that? smilies/wink.gif
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written by BillyJoe, December 18, 2008
Ah, but how did you not know that you didn't need to use the asterisks. smilies/wink.gif
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written by CanBil Teknoloji, January 11, 2009
Heheheheeeh,not bad for a old woman smilies/smiley.gif))))..
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