A 27-year-old Toronto woman has been charged with witchcraft and fraud after allegedly bilking a man of more than $600,000 in an evil spirit blessing scam.
The charges follow an investigation that began in November 2017, when York Regional Police (YRP) received a report about elder financial abuse. Investigators learned the victim, a 67-year-old man, had met with a psychic who went by the name ‘Evanna’ about four years earlier.
Police say the woman used an evil blessing scam to convince the victim to sell his house and transfer the money to her account in order to rid himself of evil spirits in his home. She promised to hold onto the money until the spirits were removed but instead told the victim she needed another $6,000, which she would burn in order to ward off the spirits.
The victim sold his car to comply with her instruction and used credit and other sources to pay for several additional demands for money. Samantha Stevenson, also known as Evanna Lopez, was charged with pretending to practise witchcraft, fraud over $5,000 and possession of property obtained by crime. She appeared in court in Newmarket on October 25.
The offence of pretending to practise witchcraft falls under the Criminal Code of Canada and specifically deals with individuals who fraudulently portray themselves as having fortune-telling abilities or pretend to use witchcraft, sorcery, enchantment or conjuration in order to obtain money or valuables from a victim. This charge is not connected in any way to any religion.
YRP has previously received reports about different types of evil spirit scams, which often involve a group of suspects who approach victims on the street. The suspects typically warn the victim they’re surrounded by evil spirits and that a family member will die very soon if the spirits aren’t removed. In some cases, the suspects ask for payment in large amounts or advise the victim to bless their valuables by obtaining all the cash and jewellery the victim owns.
YRP is urging people to share this information with family members, especially the elderly or otherwise vulnerable who may fall victim to this scam. “Frauds like these are preventable, especially if people are aware they are happening,” YRP says in a statement. “Be cautious if approached on the street by anyone looking to offer you a service in regards to evil spirits. Simply walk away and call police immediately to make a report.”
Anyone with information or anyone who has been a victim of this accused should contact #4 District Criminal Investigations Bureau at 1-866-876-5423, ext. 7441, Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-tips, or leave an anonymous tip online at www.1800222tips.com.