Last year, we learned the story of Niall Rice, a 33-year-old consultant from England who was living in East Williamsburg when he was duped into paying two Midtown psychics a total of $718K in a desperate attempt to fix his life and find his soulmate. One of those psychics, Priscilla Kelly Delmaro, was found guilty of grand larceny charges last May (and eventually released eight months later, and not ordered to pay restitution to the man who she bilked out of $550K). But while Delmaro was in jail, it seems her mother-in-law took over the family business—and now she too has been arrested and charged for conning a woman out of money as part of her "curse removal work."
Earlier this month, a 23-year-old woman from the Upper West Side visited Delmaro's old Midtown spot (at 253 West 43rd Street) where she met Christine Evans. What started as a simple $10 tarot card reading soon devolved into a classic con. It wasn't as much money as Delmaro bilked out of Rice, but it was a stark reminder that fortune telling and other such manipulative cons preying on the vulnerable are sometimes a family business passed down generation to generation.
Or as described by private investigator and former police officer Bob Nygaard, who was hired by both this woman and Rice at separate times to investigate this family of "psychics," it is a "psychic organized crime family."
Nygaard says that Evans convinced the victim she was being plagued by a "curse" that the victim's mother had passed on to her at birth, one that was blocking her from achieving success in her career and love life. Evans also allegedly told her that she would be afflicted by an evil entity that was present in her home, one who would come into her room and abuse her while she was sleeping.
Over the course of a week, Evans allegedly convinced the woman to get her over $1,300 worth of gift cards for "curse removal work," plus a $400 decorative water fountain, which the Times describes as a 49-inch tall column of “natural slate and copper” over which water continuously flowed, transforming “a small section of garden or office into a relaxing getaway."
Apparently, the victim reached her limit when Evans asked for money to buy 23 candles, one for each year of her life, costing $600 per candle. The woman demanded all her money back after that, which Evans allegedly refused to give her; she was able to take the water fountain out of the store and ship it back to the company for a refund.
She also hired Nygaard, whom the Guardian once described as "America's psychic-crime fighter," to investigate Evans. Here's his account of his undercover meeting with her:
Evans solicited $55.00 from me for a tarot card reading. During the alleged psychic reading, amongst other things, Christine Evans claimed that she possessed psychic (occult) powers and claimed that she could use her powers to tell the past, present, and future and give advice pertaining to love, health, happiness, success, and marriage. Christine Evans claimed that she has the power to find out “everything."
Christine Evans claimed she was born with “the gift.” Christine Evans also claimed/pretended to tell my fortune, held herself out as being able, by claimed or pretended use of occult powers, to answer questions and give me advice on personal matters. Christine Evans claimed that she could see that my soul and my spirit were damaged, that I didn’t have “good luck,” that she could see a “negative force” that was circling my body, my soul, my mind, and my spirit, which was interfering with my destiny and my path and causing me health problems.
Christine told me that I was stuck in a tunnel of darkness and that I needed “spiritual cleansing.” Christine claimed that I had “bad luck” since I was born, she claimed that I would live to an old age and that I would travel around the world. Christine Evans claimed that for an additional $500.00 she could reunite me with an alleged soulmate/twin flame named Sue, remove “evil spirits” that she claimed were plaguing me, provide me with a shield of protection to protect me from “evil spirits,” destroy the evil surrounding me and “cast the darkness out” of me.
Christine Evans claimed that she was affiliated with sixty churches including St. Patricks, forty monasteries, and that she went to the Buddhist temple at Java. Christine Evans claimed that she had the strongest power of any psychic in New York and she claimed that she is the BEST psychic in New York.
And this is where the family business comes into play: Priscilla Kelly Delmaro also played the "soulmate/twin" con on her victim Rice, promising she could even reincarnate his dead lover inside another woman. She told him it would necessitate construction of a bridge of gold leading to another dimension, costing $90K—and he paid it, going into debt along the way. The description of her con of Rice sounds like the exact same playbook used by Evans.
Evans, who was previously arrested in Pennsylvania and NJ for similar fraud, deception and fortune telling criminal acts, was finally arrested this past Sunday, and the Times says she was charged with "petty larceny, fraud and fortune telling."
Nygaard isn't satisfied though: he blames the Manhattan DA's office for the "unconscionable" plea deal they gave Delmaro, arguing that it was "a complete travesty of justice and the lax prosecution of that case, in all likelihood, led to this current victim being defrauded...that not only failed to make the victim whole but failed to act as a deterrent to protect society." He argues that the deal—which came with no criminal restitution, meaning that Delmaro could keep the approximately $569K she took from Rice—emboldened Evans to keep ripping off vulnerable people, boldly doing so out of the same Midtown parlor where her daughter-in-law operated.
Every time we write about one of these stories, there are always commenters who laugh at the victims, who can't fathom how anyone but a numbskull might fall to them. As The Guardian wrote, "On the surface, the idea of fortune telling fraud sounds like a tautology, or a punchline. But this is precisely why it is often overlooked and its perpetrators left unpunished, free to exploit more vulnerable people."
Fortune tellers prey on the weakness of people for financial gain—as we have noted in the past, this has proven true again and again and again and again and again and again. It's all fun and games until someone who is damaged (in some sense) loses their life savings. As one convicted fortune teller simply phrased it: “If they are taking your money, they are not for real."