Toronto

Toronto woman charged after alleged 'evil spirit blessing scam'

York region investigators charge a Toronto woman, 27, with fraud and pretending to practise witchcraft after a man, 67, lost over $600,000.

A York Region man, 67, handed over $600K to rid his home of evil spirits

York Region police charge a Toronto woman after she allegedly made claims of witchcraft to get $600,000 from an elderly man. (Greg Ross/CBC)

A Toronto woman is being charged with fraud and pretending to practise witchcraft in what York Region police are calling an "evil spirit blessing scam."

Police charged the 27-year-old, self-proclaimed psychic after a nearly year-long investigation into her dealings with a 67-year-old York region man who allegedly lost over $600,000 in the scheme. 

In a release sent out by police, the accused allegedly told the man he had to sell his house and transfer the money to her account in order to rid himself of evil spirits in his home.  

Authorities began the investigation after receiving an anonymous tip about an elder financial abuse incident in November 2017.  

Police say the victim claimed the woman told him she would hold onto the money until the spirits were removed. 

The money was not returned and the woman allegedly went on to tell the victim she needed an additional $6,000 for a ritualistic burning.  

Police also say the man sold his car and used credit and other sources to pay for multiple demands for money. 

A possible trend 

This incident is not the first of its kind in the area, York Regional police Const. Laura Nicolle told CBC Toronto.

"We put out some information back in 2015 after we had a few incidents in Markham," Nicolle said. "These people are basically convincing you that there's these evil spirits following you and that your family members may be at risk."

She explains that victims in these situations are faced with the overall threat of dire consequences and comply with the scammers out of fear. 

The people behind these scams tend to target those who are considered more vulnerable, like the elderly or those new to Canada, Nicolle explained. 

Earlier this month, Halton police arrested a Milton woman with extortion, fraud and pretending to practice witchcraft. In that case, a victim came forward claiming they had been scammed out of over $60,000. 

How victims are approached 

Police say the people claiming to practise witchcraft or magic find victims by posting online ads and approaching potential targets in person. 

Nicolle says that in investigating these types of cases, there are unique concerns. 

"We are crossing over into victims who are concerned about evil spirits and there's no way for us to investigate that," she explains, adding that it's difficult to argue with someone's beliefs. 

She says that the process for victims to reclaim stolen assets is done in the courts. 

The accused is set to appear in a Newmarket court on Thursday.

She faces charges of possession of property obtained by crime, fraud over $5,000 and pretending to practise witchcraft. 

Nicolle advises that to avoid situations like this, it's important to not get caught up in the scammers claims. 

"I think many people are quick to judge the victim — 'Why would you give that money?' And I think what we really need to be doing is judging the people who are committing these types of crimes," she said.     

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