Fortune Telling Plea in Manhattan Supreme Court

It’s not as if we haven’t heard about fortune telling scams before. They have been the subject of books, articles, plays, movies, and documentaries for as long as any of us can remember. But did you know that fortune telling is a crime in the State of New York? Under § 165.35 of the Penal Law, it is a class B misdemeanor to solicit or receive a fee for telling (or pretending to tell) fortunes, or for providing advice which is claimed to be based upon occult powers, or for affecting evils spirits and curses.

Apparently a little more was going on than fortune telling for a fee at Betty Vlado’s East 77th Street parlor. In fact, three people were convinced to spend a total of $55,000 for Vlado’s services, as well as for the purchase of a rock and other items, in one case, that the woman said was necessary for some sort of a healing ritual.

The way it worked was that Vlado circulated flyers for customers of her fortune telling establishment. In the three cases referred to above, she told her customers that they had “black auras”, and that these needed to be cleansed. To clean out the bad energy, a victims was told to purchase a rock, jewelry and bath salts, supplied by Vlado for a fee. The bath salts were supposed to alter her aura, as well as the color of her “third eye.” The rock, one victim was told, was a meteorite from NASA, and was sold to the unwary customer for $14,500.

Vlado pleaded guilty last week not only to fortune telling (remember, that’s just a misdemeanor), but also to grand larceny, a felony. Before being sentenced, Justice Larry Stephen asked her in Manhattan Supreme Court whether in fact she told the victims she had special occult powers and could cleanse their spirits, and accepted money for her services. Vlado replied that she did. The guilty plea was part of a deal that allowed Vlado to stay out of jail, and requires that she pay restitution to the victims. She paid back $25,000, almost half of it, immediately following her sentencing.

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