It's incredibly frustrating to suffer from chronic symptoms that your doctor can't identify, but as a Brampton, Ont. woman recently learned, it's even more frustrating to get bilked out of $14,000 by a fraudster who promises to cure your headaches with magical elixirs and rituals.
As the Toronto Star reports, doctors eventually linked Maria Roesta's headaches to chocolate. They eased up as soon as she stopped eating her chocolate-covered almonds.
And police eventually linked Gustavo Valencia Gomez — the Mississauga, Ont. man who allegedly promised to remove the "curse" that was at the root of Roesta's headaches — to fraud charges.
The 40-year-old man was also accused of pretending to practice witchcraft — a charge so rare, Det. Const. James Turnbull told the paper that he can't recall another instance of Toronto police having to enforce it.
But then again, Gomez sounds like a special case. A self-proclaimed healer, he advertised his services around Ontario and Quebec.
So when Roesta complained of headaches that wouldn't seem to go away, a family friend's son suggested she seek out Gomez, claiming the man's treatments would help her and that he'd been happy with his own experience.
Though Gomez reportedly charged her a $50 consultation fee, the payment demands quickly escalated to the $10,000 range.
Roesta alleges Gomez told her that even her children were "marked for death." She says he convinced her this was true when he cracked two eggs over photos of her children and the eggs appeared to have blood in the yolks.
She also told police about another ritual that involved rubbing lemon oil on her body. When the oil turned black, she said, she was told it was another sign she required expensive counter-rituals to remove the "curse."
Police say they believe the blood was added to the eggs before the ceremony and that ash may have been mixed into the oil to cause its colour change.
At one point, she says, Gomez instructed her to drink a potion that only served to "turn her stool black" and give her diarrhea. Headaches were probably looking good at this point.
The tide shifted when Roesta's bank started asking questions about the enormous charges on her credit card. Her family also wanted to know why so much money was suddenly missing — a grand total of $14,000 over five sessions, said police.
Their concern appeared to shake Roesta out of her daze and she eventually went to the authorities.
"I was crying all the time (over the money)… How could I be so stupid?" she told the Star, adding that her headaches have now returned, but she can firmly link their cause to stress this time.
Meanwhile, the Covenant of the Sacred Cauldron is none too pleased about stories like these, blasting "fake witches" for putting a stain on their craft.
True witches, they claim, refuse to accept money for teaching magic.