Things That Matter

A Woman Scammed People Out Of $100,000 By Saying She Was A Psychic

At some point in our lives, we’ve all wished for some magical way to boost our cash flow—and earlier this year, several people thought they’d found it. Perlita Afancio-Balles, a 29-year old woman living in Sacramento, claimed that she was “psychic” and promised her clients that if they paid her, she would “bless” them by doubling their money. In total, Afancio-Balles scammed people out of more than $100,000, amounting to a federal felony charge for grand theft and obtaining money by false pretenses.

The scam first came to media attention back in October, when Afancio-Balles fled Sacramento after receiving the initial payment from her victims. Police told Fox40 News that Afancio-Balles had instructed victims to leave their money with her for a few days.

She promised that when they returned for the money, double the original amount would be waiting for them. But when the victims did so, Afancio-Balles was nowhere to be found.

Credit: Sacramento Police Department

Now, after being on the run for almost three months, Afancio-Balles is at the top of the Sacramento Police Department’s “most wanted” list. The Sacramento Police are seeking information about her whereabouts in order to bring justice to the fraud victims.

“Ultimately, most of these victims, or all of these victims, believed the psychic and gave her money. And, eventually, the suspect fled with all the money that was given to her,” said Sacramento Police Officer Karl Chan. “She also targeted the Spanish-speaking community.”

Afancio-Balles, who went by the name “Eva Maria,” lived in the neighborhood of South Natomas, where most of her victims also reside. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 30% of South Natomas residents are Latino or Hispanic. Afancio-Balles, as well as most of the people she scammed, belong to this demographic.

While her case is certainly extreme, Afancio-Balles’ story is not unique. Psychic scammers have long been at large in different parts of the world, targeting people who are desperate for financial stability. For con artists, feigning supernatural powers can be an effective way of acquiring very large sums of money very quickly.

Over the past few years, several situations like that of Afancio-Balles came to light, and numerous false psychics ended up behind bars.

Credit: Pinterest

In May of 2018, a clairvoyant known as “Psychic Zoe” was arrested by the New York Police Department for defrauding clients out of more than $800,000. Taking advantage of vulnerable clients in a fragile emotional state, Psychic Zoe—whose real name is Ann Thompson—convinced one woman to buy her a 9.2 carat diamond ring, claiming that if she did not, she would never love again.

Later that same year, Gina Marks was sentenced to six years in prison after pleading guilty to committing felony theft against five of her clients. Overall, she stole more than $340,000 after telling her victims that she could cast love spells and “cure them of curses.” Like Afancio-Balles, Marks also went by a different name professionally: her clients knew her as Natalie Miller. And just as Afancio-Balles did, Marks tried to flee after customers started reporting her suspicious activity. Marks was caught by a private investigator at the Miami International Airport, where she was ultimately arrested. Afancio-Balles is currently still at large.

And in fall of this year, Sherry Unwanawich—known to clients as Jacquelin Miller—was sentenced to 40 months in prison for swindling a single victim into paying $1.6 million over the course of several years for protection from a “curse.” The victim was allegedly grieving the death of her mother and struggling with medical school when she was led to believe that her family would be in danger from fake curse if she failed to pay.

Private investigator Bob Nygaard played a significant role in the cases of both Marks and Unwanawich—in fact, Marks was the very first psychic scammer that Nygaard investigated, catapulting his new career in this niche field of detective work. Nygaard is a former New York City police officer who has aided authorities in dozens of con artist cases, specifically in instances of false supernatural claims. In 2015, he estimated that he had recovered over $3 million for 21 victims across those dozen cases. But he says the overall number of defrauded funds in cases like these amounts to much more.

“The amount of money that these people are defrauded of by these self-proclaimed psychics is astronomical,” he said. “We’re talking in the billions of dollars.”

Nygaard says that police departments and district attorney offices don’t often take psychic crime seriously, often dismissing it as a “civil problem.” But as cases like these continue to emerge, the legal landscape is starting to change. In the case of Afancio-Balles, the Sacramento Police Department is remaining vigilant, requesting information from the public that might help locate her. 

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Latina L.A. County Deputy Was Shot In The Face But Saved Her Partner’s Life After A Gunman Ambushed Them

Things That Matter

Latina L.A. County Deputy Was Shot In The Face But Saved Her Partner’s Life After A Gunman Ambushed Them

David McNew / Getty

A shooting that occurred over the weekend in Compton, California has sparked shock, alarm, and outrage.

The shooting occurred sometime around 7 p.m. on Saturday at MLK Transit Center in Compton. According to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the gunman made his way toward the passenger’s side of the deputies’ car and shot two deputies with a pistol without precedent.

One of the victims is a 31-year-old mother.

On Saturday, the sheriff’s department tweeted surveillance footage of the shooting which also captured the gunman fleeing the scene.

According to reports, the gunman fired into the deputies’ car without pretext.

“This is just a somber reminder that this is a dangerous job, and actions and words have consequences. Our job does not get any easier because people do not like law enforcement,” Alex Villanueva, the 33rd Sheriff of Los Angeles County, said in a statement. “It pisses me off. It dismays me at the same time.”

According to Villanueva, both of the deputies (Claudia Apolinar a 31-year-old mother and a 24-year-old man) were sworn in just 14 months ago and are in critical condition at the hospital. According to the sheriff’s department both are “fighting for their lives” but “it looks like they’re going to be able to recover.”

Apolinar and her partner were both shot at close range. Apolinar was shot in the face and torso and her partner sustained multiple gunshot wounds Seeing that he was in need of immediate medical treatment, Apolinar managed to make a tourniquet for him before medics arrived.

According to the New York Post, Apolinar is a former librarian who graduated from the academy last year.

“We’ll see what the long-term impact is. We don’t know that yet, but they survived the worst,” Villanueva explained.

Local officials have announced a $100,000 reward for information on the gunman and his whereabouts.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden spoke out against the attack and condemned it in a statement calling “Acts of lawlessness and violence directed against police officers are unacceptable, outrageous, and entirely counterproductive to the pursuit of greater peace and justice in America — as are the actions of those who cheer such attacks on.”

Speaking about the incident, Democratic US Rep. Adam Schiff called the attack “cowardly.”

“Every day, law enforcement officers put themselves at risk to protect our community,” Schiff stated in a post shared to Twitter. “I hope the perpetrator of this cowardly attack can be quickly brought to justice.”

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Jussie Smollett Speaks Out For The First Time In Months About His Alleged 2019 Attack— ‘They Won’t Let This Go’

Entertainment

Jussie Smollett Speaks Out For The First Time In Months About His Alleged 2019 Attack— ‘They Won’t Let This Go’

Nuccio DiNuzzo / Getty

In early 2019, “Empire “actor Jussie Smollett found himself thrust into the public spotlight of scrutiny after it was reported that he had been the victim of a hate crime. His original claim initially prompted public outrage and a flood of support from fans. Then, nearly three weeks later, the public was shocked to learn that Smollett had been charged with disorderly conduct and the false filing of a police report after it was determined that the attack had been staged. Worse? Officials suspected that Smollett himself had choreographed the entire attack from start to finish. In March of 2019, the actor was charged with 16 counts of disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a false police report that claimed two men attacked him while yelling racist and homophobic slurs at him.

Since then, the charges against Smollett have been dropped but his reputation remains tarnished. The court of public opinion has determined that he is a liar and fabricator. Ultimately he was dropped from his role on his show and he has remained relatively silent about the issue.

Now, a year after the alleged attack Smollett is speaking out about the controversy in a rare interview.

On Wednesday, the actor made an appearance in an Instagram Live conversation with author and activist Marc Lamont Hill. During the interview, Smollett addressed his ongoing trial calling the situation “frustrating, to say the least.”

“It’s been beyond frustrating, and I certainly am not going rogue,” Smollett explained. “I’m still taking the advice of my attorneys and everything like that, but I don’t really see, honestly, what staying quiet has really done, like, where it has gotten me. … It’s so much bigger than me.”

Smollett went onto share what the past year has done to him and shared that his legal team recently filed a motion against his indictment. The motion is set to be reviewed in court on Thursday. “I believe I have to give it up to God,” Smollett explained before adding that he thinks the legal motion will fall in his favor.

“They won’t let this go,” he explained. “It doesn’t matter — there is an example being made. And the sad part is that there’s an example being made of someone who did not do what they are being accused of.”

Addressing accusations that his original claims were all a hoax, Smollett said that “From the very, very beginning, it was set up to seem like I was lying about something or everything.”

Smollett claimed “there would be no reason for me to do this” and called the accusations “bulls—,” before adding that the “last thing” hew would ever want to do is “be portrayed as a victim.”

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