'Gypsy Fortune Teller' Invents Family Curse; Bilks Client Out Of $1 Million To Lift It

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Who Is Sherry Tina Uwanawich? New Details On Woman Who Pretended To Be Psychic To Bilk $1.6 Million Out Of Med Student

In 2007, a 27-year-old medical student was walking through a shopping mall when a self-described psychic approached her and offered her spiritual help. The student, who was suffering from depression and looking for any kind of help she could get, went along with the woman who called herself Jacklyn Miller and told her that her family was under a curse. Over the next few years, she paid the woman she knew as Miller hundreds of thousands of dollars for her assistance in lifting the curse.

Finally, Miller confessed that her name was really Sherry Tina Uwanawich and she wasn't psychic at all. But she still had one last scam to try on the woman she had already duped: a jointly authored book that the student would have to pay to write. That's when the student walked away and sought help from law enforcement.

Now Uwanawich is headed for jail and owes her victim $1.6 million in restitution. Who is Sherry Uwanawich? Read on for all the details.

1. Looking for answers

A medical student, who has asked not to be named in court documents, was out at a shopping mall in Houston one day in 2007. She was in a dark place in her personal life, grieving the death of her mother, struggling through a recent break-up, and dealing with the pressures of medical school. She had been visibly crying when a woman calling herself Jacklyn Miller approached her and asked if she wanted a free reading at a fortune-telling parlor, Oxygen reports. The student went along with her, hopeful for some guidance to help her through her difficult time.

2. A family curse

During the reading, Uwanawich — who was still calling herself Jacklyn Miller and would continue to do so for the next seven years — told the student that the spirits were saying that her family was under a curse. The curse was connected to the student's mother's death and had been passed along to her. Uwanawich claimed she could lift the curse and began charging the student large sums of money for meditation objects such as crystals and candles, according to the New York Times.

Uwanawich demanded money to lift a curse.

3. Year of scamming

Over the next seven years, Uwanawich continued to do "curse-lifting work" with the student, all at staggering monetary costs. “The failure of the victim to continue to furnish more money or property to [Uwanawich] would result in the ‘work’ becoming undone and result in harm to the victim or [the] victim’s family, or loved ones,” the indictment described. "The relationship between the victim and Uwanawich continued for years, even after the defendant had moved to South Florida, and during that time the victim was induced to give up approximately $1.6 million dollars."

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4. There was no curse

In 2014, the story took a turn. Uwanawich finally dropped her charade and told the student who she really was and that everything that came before had been a scam: there was no curse and she was no psychic. But she wasn't done trying to bilk the student out of money just yet. The New York Times reports that she proposed that they write a book together, which would cost the student $30,000 upfront. Uwanawich assured her that there would be a payday later and that the book would make $30 million in profits. 

RELATED: 5 Easy Ways To Tell If Your Psychic Is The Real Deal Or A Fraud

5. Trying to get justice

After she realized she had been duped, she contacted Bob Nygaard, a retired New York police officer and private investigator who specializes in psychic fraud. Nygard helped her prepare a case to submit to Broward County Sheriff’s Office in Florida, where Uwanawich lived. “I give her a lot of credit because she’s very brave and strong for wanting to come forward,”Nygaard told the New York Times. “It’s very difficult when someone pretends to be your confidante and then they pull the emotional rug out from under you.” He went on to explain the pattern that fraud psychics often use to draw clients in. “They isolate the victim from friends and family,” he said. “Then they exacerbate already existing fears, usually related to love, money or health. Then they say they’re the only one that can help.”

Despite the evidence they compiled, the case wasn't picked up until the FBI was investigating an unrelated case several years later. Nygaard was consulting on that and suggested they look into the Uwanawich case as well.

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The FBI took up the case.

6. Gyspy culture made her do it

Once she was detained by authorities, Uwanawich didn't deny what she had done. Instead, she tried to say she had been forced to do so by her family. The Times reports that she talked about being born into “Gypsy culture.” She claimed family pressure forced her to be a fortuneteller who would contribute all funds to the “Gypsy family." She also said that her “Gypsy husband” would beat her if she didn't bring him money. 

Despite all the claims that she wasn't responsible for her own actions, Uwanawich pleaded guilty to wire fraud, the NY Post reports. She has to pay $1.6 million in restitution and she will serve 40 months in jail.

Rebekah Kuschmider has been writing about celebrities, pop culture, entertainment, and politics since 2010. Her work has been seen at Ravishly, Babble, Scary Mommy, The Mid, Redbook online, and The Broad Side. She is the creator of the blog Stay at Home Pundit and she is a cohost of the weekly podcast The More Perfect Union.