Woman on Trial for Fortune Telling in Pennsylvania

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on June 04, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Have a cloud of malignant ghosts and curses floating around you and preventing you from becoming a millionaire? Have no fear. A fortune teller can help ... if she doesn't land herself in jail first.

April Uwanawich, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, has been arrested and charged with 55 counts of fortune telling, theft by unlawful taking, and theft by deception.

Seriously? Fortune telling is against the law?

Uwanawich's Scam

Prosecutors are accusing Uwanawich of tricking a client out of thousands of dollars. Uwanawich promised to remove the "dark cloud" hovering over the client. Over the course of two years, the client paid Uwanawich about $10,000 to rid the client's life of evil, spells and curses. Uwanawich also convinced the client to stop taking doctor prescribed mental health medications and use candles, oils, perfumes, and crystals instead to ward off evil spirits.

This client actually isn't Uwanawich's first victim. In 2009, Uwanawich pled guilty to theft for stealing $23,000 to remove a curse. Also, in 2011 Uwanawich pled guilty to felony theft by deception after she took $35,000 for removing another dark cloud from another woman.

Pennsylvania's Fortune Telling Law

In Pennsylvania, a defendant is guilty of fortune telling, a third degree misdemeanor, if she "for gain or lucre, [pretends] to tell fortunes or predict future events, ... pretends to effect any purpose by spells, charms, necromancy, or incantation, or advises the taking or administering of what are commonly called love powders or potions." The actual list of prohibited activity is pretty extensive.

Other State's Fortune Telling Laws

As crazy as the law may sound, Pennsylvania isn't the only state with a fortune telling law.

New York prohibits telling fortunes or promising to use "occult powers, to answer questions or give advice on personal matters, or to exorcise, influence, or affect evil spirits or curses." (New York's law makers wanted to protect the poor evil spirits?) However, you'll only be charged and convicted if you insist that fortune telling is real. Fortune telling solely for entertainment or amusement is not prohibited.

In California, the City of Azusa also had a law prohibiting the practice of fortune telling. However, in Spiritual Psychic Science Church v. City of Azusa, California's Supreme Court ruled the law unconstitutional for violating the right to free speech.

As for Uwanawich, she faces up to life in prison if she is convicted of all 55 counts. Her trial started on Monday, so stay tuned for the verdict.

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