A Florida woman was sentenced to more than three years in prison and ordered to repay $1.6 million after concocting a "fortune telling" fraud scheme in which she convinced a Texas woman that her family was cursed, federal authorities say.
Sherry Tina Uwanawich, 28, was sentenced last week to 40 months in prison by U.S. District Judge Rodolfo A. Ruiz, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Southern District of Florida said in a statement Monday.
Federal authorities say Uwanawich met the woman in Houston in 2007 and said she was a "a psychic/fortune teller." Uwanawich convinced the woman that a curse had been placed upon her family that could cause harm if not lifted.
"The defendant claimed she needed large sums of money to purchase items, such as crystals, candles and the like, which were needed for meditation work in order to lift the curse," the U.S. Attorney's Office said in a statement.
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According to the Houston Chronicle, the woman visited Uwanawich twice a week, paying her with loans, money earned from stripping and inheritance funds from her father's death.
Uwanawich eventually told the woman that the curse originated from her late mother, who had been cursed by a witch in South America, the newspaper reported.
Their relationship continued for years, and the woman sent money to Uwanawich even after she moved to South Florida, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.
In early 2014, Uwanawich admitted there was no curse and ended the scheme, the office said.
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The Houston Chronicle reported that a private investigator who specializes in fraud by psychics alerted authorities to the case.
Uwanawich previously pleaded guilty to wire fraud, the U.S. Attorney's Office said. Court records show she was diagnosed with schizophrenia, per the Chronicle.
"My client got up there instead and told the judge how (the situation) had emotionally crushed her life and caused her emotional illness," defense lawyer Jim Lewis told the newspaper. "And that judge just was not having it – Judge Ruiz seemed to be very incensed with what she had to say."
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Florida 'psychic' must repay $1.6 million in fraud, curse scam