A Windermere fortune teller, accused of stealing nearly $136,000 from a client, is now barred from telling fortunes.
Peaches Stevens, 29, was arrested Jan. 11 at her Winter Garden home and charged with stealing from a woman who answered her advertisement promising "psychic readings by Mrs. Starr."
She is free on a $22,000 bond, but prohibited from telling fortunes until the charges are resolved.
The alleged victim, Priti Mahalanobis, said she was curious about how "Mrs. Starr" might give her insight into a relationship, so she paid $20 for a reading, then $200 for a follow-up, before draining bank accounts, a family business and a cache of jewelry.
Asked why it should be a crime to accept money from a client who willingly turned it over, Mahalanobis said, "She intended to defraud. She used lies and manipulation to continue to defraud us and made false statements also."
"You have to understand these psychics are very good at reading people and seeing where their weaknesses are," she said.
The Orange-Osceola state attorney charged Stevens with three felonies -- scheme to defraud -- after New York private investigator Bob Nygaard helped Mahalanobis by presenting affidavits to the state outlining the allegations.
Mahalanobis, who has degrees in finance and economics, said she was duped by Stevens, who claimed she could lift a seven-generation-long curse haunting Mahalanobis’ family.
"She was trying to tell me I was the originator, the cause, the source of this curse," she said. "Therefore I was, she told me, the chosen one to release the family from the curse.”
It would take about $20,000 for each of seven tabernacles, or tent-like shrines, to snuff out each generation’s curse.
She said she turned over cash, gift cards and jewelry over an eight-month period in 2010, before she confided in family and became aware she was a victim of a crime.
The prosecution estimates the theft of gift cards, jewelry and cash totaled $135,899.
Stevens, who also has a New Jersey address, worked out of the Meditation and Healing Center on West 6th Ave. in Windermere. She declined to comment Tuesday on her arrest.