DA: Phony spiritual guru admits swindling client

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A phony spiritual adviser who swindled more than $650,000 from a woman by promising her she would help cure her father's cancer and "ward off the devil" pleaded guilty Friday to third-degree grand larceny, Manhattan prosecutors said.

Janet Miller, 39, told the victim during their first meeting in July 2011 in an East 41st Street apartment that Miller possessed spiritual powers and that "people were cheating, deceiving, and stealing money" from the victim, prosecutors said in a news release announcing the conviction. Miller said she could help with those problems, adding that she was having a vision of the victim's dead grandmother crying, prosecutors said.

Miller requested $900 from the victim to buy "materials to make a shield to block the devil," prosecutors said. The victim paid her $400 and in return, Miller gave her "holy" water, oils, salt and crystals, prosecutors said.

The scam continued from July 2011 to August 2012, a span during which the victim repeatedly gave Miller money as well as numerous pieces of her jewelry, including two Rolex watches, prosecutors said.

When the victim's father was diagnosed with cancer, Miller told her she could help cure him, prosecutors said. She persuaded the victim that her money was "cursed and unclean," and that Miller was capable of cleansing it. She had the victim withdraw more than $600,000 from her bank account in cash and give it to Miller, claiming she would take the money to a mountain to perform "cleansing procedures" there, prosecutors said.

Miller said she would return the money within a matter of weeks, but she gave back only a small portion, prosecutors said.

She is scheduled to be sentenced June 12. The conviction does not require mandatory jail time, prosecutors said.

"Larceny is larceny, no matter what form it takes -- fraud by a spiritual adviser is no different than fraud committed by an attorney, an accountant, or any other person who gains an individual's trust in order to steal from him or her," New York County District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. in the statement.

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