A South Florida mother and daughter who claimed to be psychics and used eggs containing snake embryos in order to convince customers they were cursed, are now headed to prison for fraud.
On Friday, U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra sentenced 74-year-old Annie Marie Vwanawick to 42 months behind bars. He also handed her daughter, 44-year-old April Miller, a sentence of just over two years.
The judge followed the prosecutions’ recommendations in the sentencing, citing Vwanawick’s past punishments for similar frauds.
Bob Nygaard, a private detective who specializes in investigating fraudulent psychics, and who helped investigate this case, is not satisfied with the jail time.
“If someone can steal $1.4 million, pay back only $97,000, get sentenced to 42 months, and then only do 36, you’re doing three years in prison for a profit of $1.3 million,” he said after the sentencing hearing.
The case involves two victims, one who was defrauded out of $1.4 million, and another who lost $10,000.
“Monsters and evil really do exist,” says one female victim, who asked to be identified only as Mrs. O at the sentencing.
She met April Miller at a nail salon in 2009. Miller offered the woman, who was going through a divorce, the “spiritual healing” services of her mother, Vwanawick.
“They told me my life was cursed,” Mrs. O said to the judge, “and that my husband would win everything in the divorce and was a demon.”
Vwanawick allegedly told the victim the situation could be resolved by pay her and her daughter for their spiritual services, so she could keep the curse away.
After Mrs. O received money from her husband in the divorce settlement, Vwanawick told her that the money was cursed, and that Mrs. O should turn it over to her in the form of cash, for “cleansing.”
When Mrs. O’s husband died of alcoholism, the psychics told her that he had become a powerful demon and asked her to give them any jewelry he had given her for a similar “cleansing.”
“They swore in Jesus’ name that the money would be returned,” Mrs. O told Marra.
Most of it, however, was never returned.
James Lewis, who serves as Vwanawick’s attorney, asked Marra, “What are the chances that someone of this age will come out alive after a 42-month sentence?”
He referred to Vwanawick and Miller’s Roma ancestry as a “mitigating circumstance” for their actions, and added, “Gypsy families, probably for hundreds of years, have supported themselves in this fashion.”
Court records reveal that the pair claimed to be “white squaw Cherokee Indian” spiritual healers and that the snake embryos were part of their practice.