'Psychic' convicted of defrauding women of $138,000

Oct. 12, 2013 at 1:35 PM

NEW YORK, Oct. 12 (UPI) -- New York woman has been found guilty of using her purported psychic powers to swindle two women out of $138,000, officials said.

Prosecutors had portrayed Sylvia Mitchell, 39, as promising distraught people she could resolve their problems if they gave her large sums of money for safekeeping and rituals, The New York Times reported Saturday.

Jurors had deliberated for 6 hours over two days before convicting Mitchell on 10 counts of grand larceny and one count of scheme to defraud. She was acquitted on five other grand larceny counts.

Justice Gregory Carro denied Mitchell bail prior to sentencing, saying he considered her a flight risk.

She faces as much as 15 years in prison.

One witness, Debra Saalfield, said Mitchell had convinced her her problems stemmed from a past life as an Egyptian princess and her over-attachment to money. Saalfield testified Mitchell convinced her to giver her $27,000 for safekeeping as an exercise in letting go of money.

Her defense attorney, William Aronwald, had argued during trial that Mitchell had fulfilled her promises, providing the women prayers, meditation and rituals to alleviate their problems. Just because the techniques might not have worked didn't mean she was guilty of fraud, he said.

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