RIVERSIDE (CBSLA) — A Riverside man who police say was posing as a fortune teller faces charges of grand theft Friday for allegedly convincing a woman to pay him more than $50,000 to clear her body of parasites and rid her and her family of a curse.
Andres Pena Meneses, 31, was arrested on Tuesday, and a search of his home and business turned up a “significant amount of cash,” a voodoo doll, tarot cards, altars, religious and satanic-type objects, and a small live snake that police had been using as part of his fraud, according to Riverside police.READ MORE: Firefighters Rescue Infant, Two Adults From Fire At Two-Story Home
Meneses’ arrest followed an investigation launched during the summer into a “fortune teller” business in the 3500 block of Arlington Avenue in Riverside. A woman told police she had visited the business to have her fortune read by a man she described as a Columbian national who went by the name of “Carlos.” She claimed she paid Carlos several hundred dollars to rid her body of parasites that he convinced her had infested her body.
Police say Carlos continued to contact the woman – at one time to explain she and her family were cursed, then later to convince her her children were in trouble. As a result of these claims, police say Carlos convinced the woman to pay him more than $50,000.READ MORE: Three Shot, Two Killed In Unincorporated Area Near South Los Angeles
Meneses was identified by investigators as the man known as Carlos, and found he had a prior arrest and conviction in late 2019 in Chicago for posing as a faith healer to steal money from multiple victims, police said.
During the search of the business, police say several customers arrived and told them Meneses and his staff would cut open the mattresses he instructed them to bring from home and claim to find a live snake inside, along with demonic-type items and letters that said their families were in danger. Other customers told police Meneses advertised his services on the radio, and he told them they were cursed and needed to pay money in order to be rid of ailments like diabetes, headaches, sleep disorders, and nightmares.
Meneses was arrested on suspicion of grand theft and theft by false pretenses, which are both felonies. But he has since been freed after posting $57,000 bail.MORE NEWS: Person Fatally Injured In Single-Vehicle Crash On Big Tujunga Canyon Road
Detectives say they believe there may be more victims of Meneses who have not yet come forward. Anyone with information about possible fraud or Meneses can contact Detective Cory Camp at (951) 353-7117 or email CCamp@RiversideCA.gov.