A man who claimed to be a “remover of impurities” and “faith healer” conned two women into giving him $130,000 in “cleansing fees” to rid “spiritual impurities.”
Florida police booked the 32-year-old man under the name Joe Alvarez, but say he lives under several aliases and have yet to confirm his identity.
Alvarez targeted two women at the Aventura Mall in Miami separately, striking friendly conversations with them and then revealing he was a spiritual healer.
“I was very upset for being so naïve and gullible,” one of the victims, Evelyn Taveras, 36, said.
Taveras met Alvarez on Feb. 6 at the mall. He complimented her “beautiful aura” and its “yellow hue.”
“It’s just the way he came across, very humble, understanding, just a very familiar feeling,” Taveras said. “Recently I had been becoming more religious and spiritual with energy work, positive thinking and auras… and it struck me as odd that he could see that.”
Alvarez told Taveras he could get rid of her bad luck and spiritual impurities. He first sold Taveras three crystals for $5,200 each.
Taveras also mistakenly told Alvarez she had $39,000 hidden under her mattress at home, which she was saving to start a business. Alvarez showed up months later at Taveras’ house, telling her not to touch the money because she would curse it with bad luck.
But when Taveras went to look into the hiding spot, all she found was play money and newspaper clippings. A police report said she also had $48,700 worth of jewelry stolen.
The second woman, Cassandra Soray, 36, told police she was approached by Alvarez in December 2012 at the same mall.
Alvarez introduced himself to Soray as “Robert” and had her pay him $37,000 to “cleanse the impurities from her.”
Police tracked down Alvarez on Nov. 27 after he placed an order with a printing business for a “spiritual healer” and “astrological readings,” and provided a Fort Lauderdale Beach address.
Alvarez is being held on $16,000 bond and faces two counts of grand theft and two counts of obtaining property by gaming, according to the Daily Mail.
“His ability to get into them and know that they are into spirituality and to use that as an access into their personal life is impressive,” Hallandale Beach Police Det. Edward McGovern told NBC 6.