Jan 29, 2016

Psychic Who Bilked Man of More Than $550,000 Is Set Free

JANUARY 26, 2016

Priscilla Kelly Delmaro
Priscilla Kelly Delmaro

A court officer removed the handcuffs that bound the thin wrists of the former fortuneteller, and she raised her hands to wipe away tears, about to leave the courtroom a free woman.

“I’m very sorry for what happened,” the psychic, Priscilla Kelly Delmaro, told the judge.

The sentencing in Manhattan on Tuesday was the culmination of a bizarre crime of deception that stood out even against the backdrop of similar swindles that play out across decks of tarot cards and over crystal balls. The victim in the case, Niall Rice, 33, an online entrepreneur, paid more than $550,000 to Ms. Delmaro, 26, who promised to reunite him with a woman he loved. The ruse continued even after they learned the woman had died.

Ms. Delmaro left the court having served eight months in jail. She will serve four years of probation under the terms of a plea agreement, which leaned heavily in her favor after the credibility of the victim had been called into question.

Mr. Rice did not attend the hearing before Justice Larry Stephen in State Supreme Court, having returned to his native London last year. But in a victim-impact statement he wrote for the proceeding, he railed against the terms of the plea agreement, under which Ms. Delmaro would not be ordered to pay restitution. She could be forced to surrender any future assets to Mr. Rice.

“Think of a person,” Mr. Rice wrote, “going through difficult times. Perhaps it’s a death in the family, addiction, they could have just been let go from their job, even an illness or physical injury. Each one of those people you are thinking of has the potential to be a future victim of this crime.”

Ms. Delmaro’s case has been the subject of several articles in The New York Times, and is notable for the amount of money involved — Mr. Rice paid a total of $713,975 to her and another fortuneteller he had met before her — as well as the improbability of the psychics’ promises.

Mr. Rice, dissatisfied with visits to the first fortuneteller, who has not been identified or charged, visited Ms. Delmaro’s psychic shop in Times Square in 2013. He was upset that his feelings for a woman named Michelle, whom he had met in a drug-treatment center in Arizona, were unrequited. Ms. Delmaro promised to bring him and Michelle together — with the help of special crystals, a time machine and an 80-mile bridge made of gold.

Later, Mr. Rice discovered Michelle had died, but Ms. Delmaro assured him she could reincarnate the woman’s spirit into another body, going so far as to say a woman Mr. Rice was seeing in California was the new Michelle, Mr. Rice said in an interview last year.

Throughout the ruse, Ms. Delmaro told Mr. Rice her work was putting her in danger and wiping her out financially. In his statement to the court, he said he “believed Ms. Delmaro had sacrificed her business, home, car, was in $100,000 of credit card debt and had been living in a church for the last six months, all to help me.”

On one occasion, Mr. Rice and Ms. Delmaro had sex, Mr. Rice and Ms. Delmaro’s lawyer, Jeffrey Cylkowski, have both said. The change in their relationship could have made the payouts look like gifts, potentially hurting his credibility as a witness in the case.

“Delmaro will have profited $71,125 a month, tax free, for each month she was required to spend in jail,” Mr. Rice wrote. His statement was critical of the prosecutor in the case for not seeking out other victims by obtaining a search warrant for Ms. Delmaro’s cellphone. He also submitted accounts of a video that purports to show Ms. Delmaro’s companion, Bobby Evans, boasting that he was a “millionaire” and that, apparently using her middle name, “Kelly did it.”

In perhaps a final indignity, Mr. Rice’s statement was not read aloud in court on Tuesday. An assistant district attorney, Nabilah Hossain, submitted the statement into the record without comment. She did not respond to questions about Mr. Rice’s statement after the hearing.

Mr. Rice said victims, feeling ashamed, were not inclined to come forward. “For those that do, like myself, they face instant criticism, are judged as a sucker — an idiot,” he wrote.

Ms. Delmaro paused for a brief interview before leaving court. “I’m happy that I’m going to be home to my three kids,” ages 4, 6 and 8, she said. “I’ve been through so much.”

Mr. Rice, in a telephone interview on Tuesday, said, “I’m rebuilding.” He planned to start a website, he said, that “exposes psychic scams.”

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