Records detail how Mentor psychic preyed on clients' fears to take $1.4 million

Psychic's scams traumatized clients

Cleveland.com/May 18, 2017

By Evan MacDonald

Mentor, Ohio – A Chardon man walked into Gina’s Psychic Studio in Mentor with the sole purpose of helping his son. He had no clue that the relationship he would develop with the self-proclaimed psychic would cost him his leg.

The man, now 64 years old, met Gina B. Miller around 2000, after his son went to prison. Miller told him that she could keep the son safe — but “the work” would not be free.

Miller took at least $265,000 over several years as she asserted greater control of his life. The man even listened when she told him to drink a “special tea” from her homeland for his diabetes instead of seeing a doctor.

Her advice backfired years later when the man became ill and emergency room doctors amputated his leg to save his life.

Miller preyed on him and at least a dozen other clients’ fears and vulnerabilities to the tune of more than $1.4 million. She predicted that harm — illness, financial ruin, death — would come to their families if they did not give her money.

She used the money to finance a lavish lifestyle that included a Cadillac Escalade and Chevrolet Corvette, embroidered fur coats, vacations to Disney World and designer clothing and jewelry. She even convinced one client that her grandson would die if she didn’t buy her a Cadillac.

A judge sentenced her April 27 to eight years in prison in the scheme that lasted for more than 14 years beginning in the summer of 2001 until her arrest in the fall of 2015.

“When I first saw the police report, I was appalled at how [Miller] could take these people, who had issues that were delicate, and consciously take advantage of them,” Lake County Prosecutor Charles Coulson said. “It makes me feel certain she deserved every bit of the prison sentence that she received.”

Many of the victims declined to speak to cleveland.com because the financial loss and the emotional toll left them embarrassed. The Lake County Prosecutor’s Office released a 328-page investigative report that details the allegations that led to Miller’s conviction.

How the investigation began

A Concord Township woman called the Mentor Police Department March 30, 2015 to report that she was scammed by a psychic reader. The woman, who is now 72 years old, had been going to Gina’s Psychic Studio since for close to six months and spent $106,000.

Miller told the woman that her mother and sister placed a curse on her, and that she would need to pay her money to remove it. Miller told the woman that her house would burn and her son would die in a car crash if she did not pay.

The woman’s husband did not know she was being scammed until he found a tax statement for an IRA withdrawal in the mail.

Her report opened a flood gate for investigators that led to more than a dozen other clients with similar stories; that Miller conned them out of thousands of dollars.

Miller's background

Miller was raised Roma, and fortune telling is part of the traditionally nomadic ethnic group’s culture, her defense attorney Louis Carlozzi said during her sentencing hearing. Miller’s family began training her to be a fortune-teller when she was just 3 years old, he said.

Lake County prosecutors objected to Carlozzi’s characterization and instead described Miller as a con artist.

Miller opened Gina’s Psychic Studio more than two decades ago out of a small storefront on Mentor Avenue. She took over a business that was previously operated by her partner’s mother, investigators learned.

Miller used the profits from her business to buy a three-bedroom house in Madison Township. She lived there with her partner and their two sons.

Investigators contacted the brother of Miller’s partner, who described himself as a “gypsy” — another name for Roma. The brother described himself as a “good gypsy” but described Miller as a “bad gypsy” who “scammed little old ladies out of money.”

How the scam worked

Miller targeted clients at the “lowest of low in their lives and desperate answers,” detectives said in their report. She told them that their auras were dark and needed correction. Often, the darkness was related to a fraudulent “curse” that she could lift. But she would have to do what she called “the work,” and that cost money.

Clients never witnessed “the work” and struggled to describe it to detectives; the clients later guessed that whatever “the work” was supposed to be never happened.

Miller pressured clients by telling them that “the work” needed to be done in haste. The consequences of any delays were dire. She asked for several hundred dollars for “crystals” that clients were told to carry to improve their luck. The demands grew as she requested thousands of dollars or big-ticket items until the client were broke.

This included Rolex watches, a diamond ring, Frigidaire appliances, a kitchen table with four chairs, a 40-inch television, nine cellphones, an Apple iPad, Louis Vuitton and Chanel handbags, a neon sign, a disco ball, two Cadillacs and a Corvette.

When she got what she wanted, she abandoned her clients. The bilked clients were then abandoned; Miller would avoid clients who did not have money to pay her for “the work.”

The private eye

The Lake County Prosecutor’s Office hired Bob Nygaard, a private investigator who studied hundreds of similar cases, to review Miller’s case. Nygaard concluded that Miller used careful psychological manipulation to target clients who were “highly susceptible to [her] nefarious schemes to defraud.”

“Miller pretended to be a confidante and friend to her victims. But what she was all along was a wolf in sheep’s clothing, preying upon the vulnerabilities of her fellow human beings and financially exploiting them,” Nygaard wrote in a report for the prosecutor’s office.
Nygaard concluded that Miller fostered a sense of false hope in clients who turned to her when they struggled. She worked to isolate them from loved ones to maintain her influence over them, he said.

Eastlake woman's missing cat led her to psychic

An Eastlake woman, who is now 50 years old, first met Miller while she was grieving the death of the father and was searching for her missing cat. The woman’s statement does not say when she sought Miller’s help.
Miller took $50 with the promise she would help find the cat. Coincidentally, the cat returned home later that night.

“She had me, in that moment, in her hands,” the woman wrote in her statement to investigators. “I was totally believing her.”

The woman paid Miller about $3,700 over the next several months. Miller scared her with dire predictions and asked her to perform rituals. At one point, Miller asked the woman to dig graves in her backyard and bury wax figures meant to represent her husband and children.

If the woman stopped making payments, Miller would ask if she was too cheap to save her children’s lives.

Painesville woman, going through divorce, promised hope

A Painesville woman listed in the report as a confidential informant gave Miller $344,000 over the course of 20 years.

The woman first met Miller after she finalized her April 1999 divorce. Miller offered to help her find a new man for less than $200.

“That began years of continuous blackmail for more money,” the woman wrote in her statement to investigators.

Miller offered ominous predictions of what might happen if the woman stopped investing in “the work.” Miller told her that her ex-husband would die in a motorcycle crash, that her father would die of prostate cancer, and that her grandson would die, the woman told investigators.

The guilt worked, according to prosecutors. The payments ballooned over the years. The woman eventually bought Miller furniture and two expensive watches, and leased her two cars — including a 2015 Cadillac Escalade.

“She told me that she had to have [the money] or tragedy would strike my family — my kids and grandkids,” the woman told investigators.

Willoughby woman told that mother's soul was in purgatory

A Willoughby woman met Miller in 2010, shortly after her 82-year-old mother passed away. Miller told the woman, who is now 52 years old, that her ex-husband was part of a cult and that he cast spells on her and her family.
Miller asked the woman for $8,200 to perform work that could help her mother’s soul pass on from purgatory.

“She [made] me put the money in my right hand and say, ‘let this money be used to help my mother,’” the woman wrote in her statement to investigators.

Miller told the woman that there was darkness that needed to be removed from her life. The woman would die if the darkness remained, Miller told her.

Miller also told the woman that her “timing was off.” To address the problem, Miller asked the woman to buy her a $7,800 Rolex.

By the end of her experience with Miller, the woman lost $200,000 and two houses, she told investigators. In return, she Miller gave her a pair of multi-colored candles designed to “cleanse the darkness” surrounding her.

Russian man conned while searching for new bride

A Russian man who lost his wife to cancer first went to Miller in late 2011 because he wanted her to help him find a Russian bride. Miller told the man, who is now 56 years old, that he was cursed and eventually took more than $142,000 from him, investigators determined.

Miller also told the man his “timing was off” and asked him to correct the problem by buying her a Rolex watch worth $8,700.

The man was unable to provide a written statement because English is not his first language, investigators noted.

Air Force mother told that "the work" could keep son safe

A Richmond Heights woman, who is now 60 years old, was told in 2001 that her son was in grave danger while serving in the U.S. Air Force. That began a 15-year con that ended in her losing several hundred thousand dollars and her house.

The woman drained her 401k and leased Miller a 2004 Cadillac Deville and 2015 Cadillac ATS. She also bought her a Harley Davidson motorcycle on the way to losing more than $200,000.

The woman became so mired in debt that she lived on peanut butter, tuna and eggs. She stopped driving her car to the park because she needed to conserve gas to get to and from work.

“I told her my life had gotten worse since I met her,” the woman wrote in her statement to investigators. “But she told me that would have happened anyhow, and that I’d be in worse shape if she hadn’t been there to help.”

Concord Township woman conned with German curse

A Concord Township woman, who is now 65 years old, gave Miller more than $548,000 after the Miller told her that long-lost German relatives had placed a deadly curse on her, investigators determined.

The woman began seeing the mother of Miller’s partner more than two decades ago. She continued to see Miller when Miller inherited the business in the mid-1990s.

The woman has a disease that affects her eyes, and Miller told her that her vision would deteriorate if she did not pay for “the work.” The woman eventually took out a $150,000 mortgage on the house she inherited from her father and bought Miller expensive Cartier watches.

Miller also took approximately $35,000 from the woman’s mother, who was 89 years old when Miller was arrested. The woman would ask her mother for loans to pay Miller, investigators said.

Miller's arrest and prosecution

The Mentor Police Department began its investigation after the Concord Township woman reported Miller's tactics. An Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation agent went undercover as a prospective client to gain evidence, prosecutors said.

Detectives found expensive clothes, shoes, and other items in Miller's home when they raided it in 2015. They also found uncovered evidence when they raided the psychic studio in Mentor.

Miller originally faced more than two-dozen charges related to scam, but pleaded guilty to one count of aggravated theft, a second-degree felony punishable by up to eight years in prison.

Miller said during her April 27 sentencing hearing that she regretted her actions.

"I would just ask that you give me mercy,” she told Judge Vincent A. Culotta.

Coulson said he agreed with the judge’s decision to impose the maximum sentence of eight years in prison.

“This was a conscious, deliberate use of psychology against these people,” he said. “She convinced them they needed to give her money in order to protect the people they love.”

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