Psychic Claims She Burned the Money
WEST PALM BEACH (CN) - A spiritual guide defrauded a grieving Florida woman of nearly $10,000 and told her the money "had been 'burned' at the church," the woman says in court.
Joyce Hewlett sued Sonya Gallego in Palm Beach County Court, claiming the self-professed psychic extracted $9,700 from her while she was recovering from a divorce and the death of close family members.
Gallego "preyed upon Hewlett's dire circumstances and desperate emotional state," according to the complaint.
Hewlett says she first contacted Gallego after finding Gallego's business card on her front door.
The two of them met at a Wellington area Walgreens store, where the self-proclaimed "soul-mate specialist" offered to help - for a price, Hewlett says in the complaint.
Hewlett claims she paid Gallego $2,700 on May 15. Less than a week later, she says, Gallego "demanded additional funds," prompting her to withdraw the remaining $9,000 left in her bank account.
Hewlett says Gallego told her the cash would be taken to a church, where Gallego would pray over it so that Hewlett's situation would improve. Gallego assured her that all the money was going to be promptly returned, Hewlett says.
But as the days passed, Gallego kept insisting that more prayer ceremonies were needed, Hewlett says.
"Gallego advised that Hewlett's money was locked in a box at the church, that [Gallego] needed to have yet another prayer over the money ... and that the money would be returned the following day," the complaint states.
After Hewlett repeatedly asked for the money back, Gallego showed up at her home with $2,000 and told her the rest of the cash "had been 'burned' at the church," according to the complaint.
In a telephone interview, Hewlett's attorney Cathy Lively said that Hewlett had been in a fragile mindset, having recently suffered the loss of her mother.
Hewlett was led to believe that the money had to be "cleansed or purified," Lively told Courthouse News.
"This was not discretionary income," Lively added. "My client needed the money for ongoing expenses: electricity and rent."
Lively said Gallego's attempts to defraud Hewlett have not stopped.
"Even after the complaint was filed, [Gallego] requested additional money from my client," Lively said.
As for the notion that her client's $9,700 went up in flames, Lively said: "We doubt that any church is in the practice of burning money in the wee hours of the night."
Gallego is the sole defendant in the lawsuit. She is also known as "Sonya Vaughn" and "Sonya Williams," according to the complaint.