Police investigators say "faith healer" gypsies have passed through Salt Lake City recently, conning at least two women out of thousands of dollars in cash and jewelry along the way.
The two known victims, age 32 and 44, met the female faith healer at a health clinic, where the woman told them she has "special abilities." She apparently gained the trust of the two victims and convinced them she could bless and take curses off their belongings to give them better luck, a police report stated.The victims went several times to a house the woman was renting at 853 W. 400 North, where she would pray, light candles and speak about their lives. "It was like she could see things," one of the women told the Deseret News.
After the first visit, they began bringing their savings and valuables to be blessed. The items were put into a box, and the women were told to return the following day, when their belongings would be returned and their blessings granted.
They went to the house to receive their last blessing on Sept. 24. The women left $3,000 cash and more than $2,000 worth of jewelry to be blessed. When they returned the next morning, the house was abandoned and the gypsies gone.
"I am feeling really dumb. I've always considered myself an intelligent person," said the victim, who lives "from paycheck to paycheck."
Salt Lake Police detective George Clegg said the same or similar swindlers come through town two or three times every year and then drift away as quickly as they drift in. In each case they carefully target the victims, gain their confidence and then steal their money.
"They tell them that if they have the person's property, they can bless it and give them good luck . . . and it just progresses from there," said Clegg.
"They're smart. They've got the system down."
The swindlers often will learn something about the victims before approaching them. In one case, a gypsy learned that a woman who frequented a laundromat had a sick child. She approached her saying, "You have problems, don't you? You have a sick child at home," Clegg explained.
That woman, as with many of the victims, was amazed and believed that the "healer" had special abilities. Such victims are often deeply religious people who are struggling to make ends meet, he said.
"They want to believe so badly that they can have good fortune by black magic," said Clegg, adding that some swindlers also promise the victims that their money will double if they allow it to be left overnight to receive "blessings."
The victimized woman said she and her friend were both having problems and said the woman they met acted as if she could help them.
"When you've done everything, you pray, you work . . . you just want everything to be OK. I guess you're willing to try anything," she said.
Detectives are looking for a 19-year-old woman, 95 pounds, with gold-colored skin, big eyes and dressed in bright orange clothes. She may be traveling with two men, a 5-year-old boy and a 1-year-old girl.
Anyone else who may have been victimized or who may know information about the suspects is encouraged to call Salt Lake police detectives. "There've got to be more victims out there," Clegg said.