A man was arrested after he persuaded, sweet-talked and fleeced two women for $130,000, Hallandale Beach police said.
According to police, 32-year-old Joe Alvarez claimed he was a spiritual adviser and convinced the victims that they were possessed by evil spirits, their money was evil too, and only he could help them.
“The curse was put on me to be poor, it was put on money, so that's why I had to give all that money, to reverse it,” one of the victims told NBC 6.
Police, acting on a tip, arrested Alvarez at an apartment just off Fort Lauderdale Beach on the day before Thanksgiving. He is being held in the North Broward Bureau on $16,000 bond and faces two counts of grand theft and two counts of obtaining property by gaming, online jail records said.
The second victim said Alvarez, posing as a spiritual advisor, told her she needed to be cleansed, along with her money.
“The money that you got that you have is unclean so you have to take it out of the bank and keep it with you, like sleep on it, just keep it with you because of all the cleansing that I am doing with you and your body,” she said.
Between February and May, police said, Alvarez fleeced the women collectively for $130,000, most of it in cash.
Victim one gave Alvarez $12,500 dollars initially, then followed up with several $5,000 payments. He convinced victim two to withdraw $43,000 and hide it under her bed.
Part of his shtick, said investigators, was setting the money on fire.
“That money was supposed to come back to me but then it's like we got to burn it now, so if you have this big bin and he just threw it in there and then I'm like ‘My money!,’ and he's like ‘You have to leave, you have to leave, like everything’s getting dark, there are spirits that are going to come in, leave fast before they follow you,’” one of the victims said.
That cash set on fire was fake money, done with sleight of hand, investigators said.
Police said Alvarez met the victims at the Aventura Mall – randomly approaching them inside, striking up a conversation about their aura, then selling them his spiritual services.
“His ability to get into them and know that they are into spirituality and to use that as an access into their personal life is impressive,” said Hallandale Beach Police Det. Edward McGovern.
More NBC 6 South Florida Stories: