California ‘fortune teller’ arrested in $50,000 scam
RIVERSIDE, Calif. (AP) — Arrest probably wasn’t in the cards for a self-proclaimed fortune teller whom authorities say scammed a Southern California woman out of $50,000 by claiming to cure her of parasites and her family of a curse.
Andres Pena Meneses, 31, of Riverside was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of grand theft and theft by false pretenses but was freed after posting $57,000 bail, according to a Police Department statement.
It wasn’t immediately clear whether Meneses had an attorney who could speak on his behalf.
A police statement said Meneses — a Colombian national who had a 2019 conviction in Chicago for posing as a phony “faith healer” — advertised his Riverside fortune-telling business under the name “Carlos.”
According to police, a woman who went to Meneses to have her fortune read this summer and was told she had parasites that “Carlos” removed for a fee of several hundred dollars.
Meneses later contacted the woman and told her that her family was cursed and her children were in danger, police alleged.
“‘Through his false pretenses, the victim ended up paying ‘Carlos’ over $50,000,” according to the statement.
On Tuesday, investigators searched his home and business in the community east of Los Angeles and found cash along with “a voodoo doll, tarot cards, altars, religious and satanic type objects, and a small live pet python that were used as part of the fraud,” police said.
Customers at the business told investigators that “Carlos” had told them to bring their mattresses from home. They said Meneses and his staff would cut open the mattress “and claim to have found the live snake inside with demonic-type items and letters stating the victims’ family was in danger,” police said.
Police also were told that Meneses advertised his services on the radio and claimed he could cure ailments such as diabetes, headaches, sleep disorders and nightmares.
“Detectives believe there are many more victims and that the Spanish-speaking community was specifically targeted,” police spokesman Ryan Railsback told the Riverside Press-Enterprise.