Halton Regional Police have arrested a 32-year-old woman from Milton, Ont. and charged her with extortion, fraud over $5,000 and pretending to practise witchcraft.
Dorie "Madeena" Stevenson was arrested Thursday after a five-month investigation, according to police. Officers also recovered evidence from her property after executing a search warrant.
One of Stevenson's alleged victims told police they had been defrauded of more than $60,000 after consulting with the woman, who owns the registered business Milton Psychic.
When victims cannot be squeezed any longer, the perpetrators rely on the victim's embarrassment in not contacting police. Det.-Sgt. Dave Constantini
"What we typically see is a tendency for perpetrators to take advantage of persons when they are in their most vulnerable state," Det.-Sgt. Dave Constantini said in a press release. "Victims are manipulated into believing something bad will happen to them unless they remit cash."
"When victims cannot be squeezed any longer, the perpetrators rely on the victim's embarrassment in not contacting police."
Witchcraft in the Criminal Code
Stevenson was charged with "Witchcraft — Fortune Telling," police said. Section 365 of Canada's Criminal Code defines witchcraft in the context of fraud as:
Every one who pretends to exercise or to use any kind of witchcraft, sorcery, enchantment or conjuration; undertakes, for a consideration, to tell fortunes; or pretends from his skill in or knowledge of an occult or crafty science to discover where or in what manner anything that is supposed to have been stolen or lost may be found.
Other fairly recent cases where people were charged with pretending to practise witchcraft include:
- A Spanish newspaper producer in Toronto who promised to lift a woman's family curse for $14,000
- A Mississauga man who in 2013 had charges dropped after he agreed to pay $23,000 in restitution to his two victims
- In 2009, a Toronto woman convinced a lawyer to fork over tens of thousands of dollars by claiming she was the manifestation of his dead sister
Related on HuffPost: 5 odd laws that still exist in Canada. Story continues below.
Police, however, may not be able to charge people with "witchcraft" for much longer. Proposed legislation in the form of Bill C-51 plans to remove witchcraft, duelling and other "obsolete" offences from the Criminal Code.
"One must wonder about the existing laws regarding the practice of witchcraft, sorcery, enchantment, or conjuration," NDP MP Wayne Stetski Kootenay told Parliament in 2017.
"In addition to the fact that it impinges on the rights of some religions, and would confuse the U.S. president, who is certain that he is the target of a witch hunt, this might also hurt Harry Potter cosplayers; Dungeons and Dragons "larpers," which I do not know much about but which my staff assure me is a thing; and others for whom sorcery is an entertainment. This is a good law to be rid of."
Tory MP Peter Van Loan argued the witchcraft provision can still be useful.
"The concern is, and we have all heard stories like this, that people use these kinds of fraudulent witchcraft powers to persuade people that, for example, if they put $10,000 in an envelope, which they say will be burned but they slide it under the table instead, he or she will be saved from whatever curse they say the person is under," Van Loan said.
"Does that provision, as it exists right now, cause any harm? No. Does it give the police an avenue or resource in the case of those particular unusual offences? Yes, it does."
Investigators say they believe Stevenson has other victims, and are asking them to come forward.
CLARIFICATION: This post has been updated to include the police charge of "Witchcraft — Fortune Telling" and details to further clarify that section 365 refers to "pretending to practise witchcraft."
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