A California man who claimed to be fortune-teller duped a woman into giving him more than $50,000 to rid her body of parasites and cure her family of a curse, police said.
Andres Pena Meneses, 31, was arrested Tuesday on felony charges of grand theft and theft by false pretenses after the swindled woman went to cops to catch the self-styled clairvoyant, who convinced her to pay him several hundred dollars to expel the parasites in her body, Riverside police said in a statement Friday.
Meneses, described by the woman as a Colombian national also known as “Carlos,” then told her she and her family were “cursed,” leading the woman to fork over $50,000 for his services.
Detectives managed to track down Meneses and learned he had a prior arrest and conviction in Chicago for a similar scheme in 2019. Police said he had portrayed himself as a “faith healer” and bilked victims of hard-earned cash.
Investigators on Tuesday recovered a “significant” amount of cash during a search of Meneses’ home and business in Riverside, where he also had a voodoo doll, tarot cards, religious and satanic objects, as well as a small pet python he used during sessions with unwitting customers, police said.
“While at the business conducting the search, several customers arrived and told detectives Mr. Meneses instructed them to bring their bed mattress from home,” police said in a statement.
Meneses or his staff would cut open the mattress and claim to have discovered the live snake inside, as well as “demonic type” items and letters, stating they were in danger along with their families, police said.
But the snake was actually a pet and detectives found the reptile in a carrying container during Tuesday’s search in the 3500 block of Arlington Avenue.
Other victims told police Meneses had advertised his services on the radio and told them he could cure ailments like diabetes, sleep disorders, nightmares and headaches.
Meneses was released from custody after posting $57,000 bail, police said. No one else at the business was arrested, but investigators believe additional people were victimized, a police spokesman told the Riverside Press-Enterprise.
“Detectives believe there are many more victims and that the Spanish-speaking community was specifically targeted,” Officer Ryan Railsback told the newspaper.
Anyone who believes they were victimized by Meneses should call Riverside police at (951) 353-7117.