Criminal “Psychics” Thrive in Manhattan, Where they Target Vulnerable Women September 25, 2019

Criminal “Psychics” Thrive in Manhattan, Where they Target Vulnerable Women

In the Upper West Side of Manhattan, generations of so-called “psychics” continue to target vulnerable rich women, all from inside one building, and despite being cited and arrested.

This particular building is commonly used for palm and tarot readings, as well as chakra balancing and other pseudoscientific nonsense. It’s just one example of how the trade persists in the wealthy area despite the existence of the internet.

Tenants of the apartment have ripped off different women for up to $60,000. In one case, Kitty Mitchell took more than $33,000 from a woman who was just fired from her job and was recovering from a surgery.

The psychic shop had been there for at least 10 years, a fixture on a block of prime real estate on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. It had thrived even amid neighbors’ complaints and surprise visits from New York City inspectors who issued violations.

The tenants in the apartment had a history of evading city restrictions on home-operated businesses by finding loopholes in the rules, offering a case study into how psychics continue to thrive in modern-day New York. For years, the apartment has been a revolving door for psychics who promise a $5 or $10 peek at the future, a cottage industry that has proved to be recession-proof and common-sense-proof.

This is about more than this one building — but the New York Times investigation uses it as an example. And it’s a great one, especially considering the repeated convictions and the fact that it continues to be used to defraud unlucky people.

Two separate investigations led to the recent arrests of three women who worked as psychics in the apartment, at 143 West 69th Street. Each was convicted of felony larceny charges and forced to repay the victims up to $60,000 apiece.

Yet as recently as last week, fortunetellers appeared to be operating again in the same location, demonstrating how resistant the fortunetelling business can be to law enforcement.

In New York, it is a misdemeanor to claim to be able to use “occult powers, to answer questions or give advice on personal matters or to exorcise, influence or affect evil spirits or curses.” However, to make such claims “for the purpose of entertainment or amusement” is not illegal, and many fortunetellers have fine-print disclaimers in their locations.

I can’t help but notice that most priests would fit under this misdemeanor definition for psychics. They don’t include any disclaimers. I hope the law is applied equally.

The lease for this building expires in a year, so we’ll see if the landlords renew it and continue to allow unlawful behavior there. Considering this media attention, though, I’m betting that won’t happen.

(Image via Shutterstock)

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