Thursday, August 13, 2009

This Happens in America, Too

According to this story from Washington state it sounds like America has its own version of the "magic powder" scam that apparently was quite successful in the United Arab Emirates until it was recently shut down by police. Only over here there's no pretense of doubling the bank notes, no powder, and no counterfeit money. The scamsters just get ahold of the cash and take off.

Police said a mysterious woman known as Senora Monica offered to spiritually "cleanse" money for at least seven Hispanic families, but it was the families who got cleaned out. The woman vanished with $140,000.

This certainly is a lot simpler than switching the cash for fake bills covered in flour or whatever - just take the money and run. It also is more tailored to a Western audience. In American society the perception is that a strong dividing line exists between the physical and the spiritual, so most Americans would likely just laugh at a con artist who claimed to be able to double cash with a magick spell. On the other hand, as long as the supposed spell operates on a strictly spiritual basis by "cleansing" the money rather than doubling the physical bills it seems that the scam is much more readily accepted.

In truth, the division between matter and spirit is not as sharp as most Americans believe it to be nor as blurry as it is seen in older and more traditional societies. Some distinction exists but the divide is not absolute. Rather, it depends upon the precise nature of the spell. Doubling a physical stack of bills is quite difficult simply because of the probabilities involved in countering the law of conservation of mass and I would expect any magician to be skeptical of such a claim. On the other hand, the law of entropy is more flexible and in many cases magick can produce paranormal effects similar to those observed in hauntings simply by concentrating energy that would otherwise be diffused throughout the magical working space, or manipulate probability so that favorable events surround just about any object including a bank note.

The victims told police they met Senora Monica at a swap meet or heard her advertisements on Spanish-language radio. She advertised that she could help with anything from palm reading to infertility.

The families turned over their money for "cleansing" and were supposed to get it back Sunday night at the woman's storefront. She never showed, and police say much of the information on the business license for the store is false.

It's really too bad when people claiming to work magick for hire turn out to be scammers, both here and overseas. The news coverage makes the magical arts seem more like some sort of hustle than a legitimate field of study simply because if everything went according to plan and the victims got their money back instead of having it stolen there would be no story. That's part of the reason that I have mixed feelings about the skeptic movement, as I've mentioned in the past. Sure, many of them are closed-minded jerks with the spiritual awareness of a toaster, but one of the valuable services they perform is discrediting fake practitioners like this woman.

One wonders if someone in America might come up with a version of the scam that incorporates the counterfeit money angle from the UAE method. You take the money, pretend to cleanse it, and then replace about half of it with counterfeit bills. When the money is in a box or a suitcase or whatever nobody is going to go through it checking every bill. Of course, that does depend on the con artists being able to get their hands on decent counterfeit American money which has become more difficult with the new designs, watermarks, threads, and so forth. If you ever do decide to go and have your money cleansed in some way it is at least an angle to watch out for.

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Unknown said...

That assumes that modern counterfiters wouldn't try to fake older bills. "Weathering' older bills would cut into their profits more, but there's less risk.

Scott Stenwick said...

That's a good point. Older bills are still vulnerable to the technique where you remove the ink from a one dollar bill and print a twenty, fifty, or even a hundred dollar bill onto the paper.

I would think that the real trick with a large collection of bills is to make sure that paper feels right when the client sits down to count it, and people are used to a looking at a mixture of new and old bills at least at the moment. So that method could still work in conjunction with a "money-cleansing" scam.

Of course, as the older bills go out of circulation that window of opportunity is closing.

Sator said...

A fool and his money are easily parted'; but I know what you mean those people give magick a bad name.