Psychic bilked client out of $100G
Saturday, January 01, 2005
By KEVIN SHEA
She promotes herself as Yanna, a spiritual reader and adviser who is gifted with "the inner vision" to help others. And she practices her craft from a choice, second-floor residence and storefront overlooking Nassau Street in downtown Princeton Borough.
But for the second time since 2002, Yanna, whose real name is Christine Evans, is accused of stealing huge sums of money from a client, this time more than $100,000 from a Buckingham, Pa., woman.
Late last month, Evans, 35, was in Bucks County District Court for a preliminary hearing on the case, stemming from her late-October arrest after a number of visits to her client's home. Her lawyer waived the hearing and the case was moved to the Court of Common Pleas in Doylestown.
In May 2002, Princeton Borough police charged Evans with stealing $183,000 from a mentally ill Plainsboro woman who Evans had allegedly convinced was possessed by an evil spirit in the form of a black man from the 1800s.
The money Evans allegedly took was a "sacrifice" for a "cleansing." But police decided the cleansing occurred in the victim's bank account and arrested and charged Evans with felony theft by deception.
Evans came to a private settlement with the Plainsboro victim, the Mercer County Prosecutor's Office said recently, and the case was dropped at the victim's request.
This time, however, the Bucks County District Attorney's Office had a card up its sleeve: Evans is not only charged with theft by deception but with fortunetelling, a criminal charge in Pennsylvania that Mercer authorities were without in 2002.
Assistant District Attorney Joe Visco said the charge is not one that is applied often, but it has been successfully prosecuted in the past. The District Attorney's Office last year convicted a Buckingham woman, who went by the name Bianca, of the crime for charging a woman more than $40,000 to reduce the "negativity" in her life, press accounts say. The woman was sentenced to probation.
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Visco could not elaborate on Evans' case, since Evans' lawyer waived reading of the charges in open court. In October, however, Bucks County District Attorney Diane Gibbons was clear about Evans' motivations.
"Greed," she told local newspapers. "She is a con artist, and she preys on people whose lives are in turmoil."
Evans did not want to talk after leaving District Justice Robert Schnell's courtroom in December, except for growling at a reporter because a news photographer was waiting outside the room. "This is very rude," Evans said before pulling her long, black dress coat over her head of long, dirty-blond hair.
Evans camped out in a conference room, then dashed to her car with the assistance of court employees, who allowed her to sneak through their office and out the rear of the building.
The case against Evans, her lawyer Joseph Malley said, "is going to get resolved. I have no doubt about it." He declined to elaborate.
Evans' alleged victim was in the courtroom with a friend and declined to discuss the allegations. "I just want her convicted," the alleged victim said. "She is a predator," the friend said of Evans as they chatted with Visco.
Evans, 35, was arrested in late October after allegedly accepting a $71,000 check from the woman.
Court documents and police said Evans met the woman in late 2003, at a "psychic party." The alleged victim went to Princeton to meet Evans, and Evans allegedly visited the woman's home to remove evil spirits.
The money Evans charged kept mounting, and in October another adviser got involved, the alleged victim's financial adviser who noticed more than $100,000 missing from the woman's accounts, authorities said.
Buckingham police and Bucks County detectives began investigating. After Evans allegedly accepted a check for $71,000 from the woman for gold coins she told the woman she would need to ward off the spirits, police pulled her over in Buckingham.
As officers approached, Evans allegedly put the check in her mouth and chewed it before discarding it under her seat. Police recovered the check.
Evans was initially jailed but is free on bond - set initially at $250,000 - pending trial.
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Evans has been convicted of psychic-related activity before. In Maricopa County, Ariz., in 1999, she pleaded guilty to theft by misrepresentation for selling a client $6,000 in gold coins for "remedies." Evans traveled to Arizona for court and was sentenced to probation.
Gibbons said in early November that victims of such exorbitant fortunetelling, or other such psychic readings, should not be embarrassed and should report it so authorities can fight it.
"These people prey on people who are vulnerable, and we can't let them get away with it," Gibbons told The Intelligencer newspaper in Bucks County.
Stockton resident Jennifer Shepherd agrees. She was so miffed by Evans' previous arrest in 2002 and the headlines it generated, she wrote to The Times to argue on behalf of "real" psychics.
Shepherd, who writes astrology columns for Bucks County and Philadelphia publications and online, where she is known as the Lipstick Mystick, said there are easy ways to know you are working with a reputable psychic. And she's adamant about getting out such a message.
First, the costs should not dramatically escalate. "You should never pay more for a session than you would for a therapist or any professional like an attorney," Shepherd said.
And beware of psychics who immediately bring on the gloom and doom, she said.
On the first visit, "They'll throw down a few tarot cards and then say your aura is black," Shepherd said.
It's followed up by this pitch: "Lucky for you, I can help." Or, "There's a negativity in your aura, and I'm the only one who can help you.
"There's always some hook into something that is horribly expensive for you," Shepherd said. "It's all about the promotion of fear."
Shepherd was a psychic in Princeton for about 10 years before taking a break from the business in 1999 to be a freelance writer in the field. Recently she returned to readings as an aside to her astrology writing. She said someone seeking a psychic should get a referral from someone they trust.
Evans also said people in the holistic business, from acupuncturists to massage therapists to herbalists, often can vouch for a trusted psychic.
"In my experience, real psychics are more like spiritual counselors who are focused on healing, empowerment and success coaching," Shepherd said.