Life was in a tailspin for a Connecticut real estate investor named Stacy. Once married, she was now divorced. Once the owner of a beautiful $6 million mansion, she now bounced from rental to rental. She still paid the bills -- but made only a fraction of her old salary. But what mattered most to the blond and fresh-faced 45-year-old (who asked that her last name not be used) was her spirituality.
Then one night last November, she was puttering around the house, ignoring the TV news, when a phrase caught her attention: "Palm Beach psychic."
When she turned to the screen, there was Tiffany Ava Mitchell, her psychic for the past five years, wading through the firefight of paparazzi flashbulbs.
"The last I knew, she was this humble, modest, 20-year-old girl from Palm Beach working for God," Stacy tells New Times. "Then I see her walking down the street in Manhattan in platform shoes and a Louis Vuitton bag."
Apparently, Mitchell had been hanging out in Avenue, a Chelsea hip spot, at 4 a.m. She'd run across celebrity Chernobyl Lindsay Lohan. Depending on whom you believe, the two women were either flirting with the same guy or Mitchell offered the troubled thespian a free reading. LiLo punched the psychic in the face.
The troubled-star-smacks-down-a-psychic story line made good click-bait for news sites. For Stacy, it was the first thread to come undone in what she says was an elaborate con conducted by Mitchell. By then, Stacy claims, she'd given the psychic more than $2 million.
As we've reported before, psychic cons are big business in South Florida, a fact recently highlighted by the conviction of Fort Lauderdale psychic Rose Marks on 14 federal charges. But it's rare to see fortuneteller fraud end up in a courtroom, even though their scams usually follow the same playbook: vulnerable victims, stories of past lives, expensive "cleansing" rituals, psychics who act like friends -- until the money flow stops.
In 2006, Stacy had been vacationing in Palm Beach with a friend. A young woman approached her on Worth Avenue. She urged Stacy to get a psychic reading and handed the woman a card. After a year, Stacy decided to try the number.
"I was looking for guidance," she says. "I was feeling very unfulfilled in my marriage. What do you do? You don't know where to go. You have everything that you thought you needed. We had lots of money. I had friends. I had a husband. Yet I just felt an emptiness."
As her marriage unraveled, Stacy would come to Palm Beach for months at a time and visit with Mitchell, who had storefronts in both Palm Beach and West Palm Beach. Stacy says the psychic told her she had a lot of negativity built up from earlier lives, including past violent deaths. "The cycle was going to repeat itself."
To combat the bad energy, Mitchell allegedly told Stacy to sell off her property and hand over the money, which she said would be used for charitable causes. The last payment was made in 2009. The psychic said the work would spiritually cleanse her. "I threw all caution into the wind," Stacy says. "I trusted her. I thought she really did represent God."
But as the economy nose-dived and her marriage ended, suddenly Stacy was in a bad financial situation. The November LiLo incident made her wonder if her spiritual confidant was legit -- who exactly was paying for the late-night romps in Manhattan VIP rooms? Around the same time, the IRS came calling. When Stacy had sold property and handed over the proceeds to Mitchell, she hadn't paid capital gains taxes because the money was supposedly going to charity. Now, the government wanted proof. Between November and February, Stacy says she pestered Mitchell for documentation. The psychic stalled, then stopped taking calls, Stacy alleges.
Stacy filed a police report with the Palm Beach Police on February 13. Unfortunately -- like a lot of fortuneteller fraud cases -- the case has been kicked among different departments.
"We can't follow up on it because it's a West Palm Beach case," says Palm Beach Detective Keith Medeiros. "All the money changed hands in West Palm Beach; every time they met, it was in West Palm Beach."
Stacy claims she was never told to report to a different police department but is currently working with both departments in their investigation. It's unclear where Mitchell is living. Her storefront is shuttered, and phone messages were not returned.
Feeling hoodwinked now more than ever, Stacy is left like many victims -- with little in the bank account and roughed-up from the emotional betrayal. She says she owes the IRS back taxes. "It is embarrassing," she says.
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