July 21, 2006 — -- It all started innocently for Jackie Haughn. She was leaving work one day last November and found a flier on her car. It was an ad from a psychic, who called herself "Ann Marie," offering readings at half price. "A couple of weeks later, I called and decided to make an appointment. It sounded interesting. I figured I have nothing to lose," Haughn said.
So the 36-year-old divorced mother of two ventured over to Cresskill, N.J., just north of New York City, to meet with the self-proclaimed psychic.
Haughn told the psychic that she wanted to know if perhaps someone might be coming into her life.
Haughn said Ann Marie offered to light candles to help her meditate and pray for answers to her problems.
"When she said she lights candles, it automatically makes me think it's like a spiritual thing ... a good thing ... you're praying for somebody," said Haughn.
Haughn believed the psychic was sincere and supportive, even though she charged her $25 per candle.
Haughn said she gave the psychic $75 for the candles, because the psychic was empathetic and would do things like hold Haughn's hand and tell her, "God had brought you to me."
After her first session, Haughn felt as if she could trust Ann Marie, and she agreed to come back. During that next reading, Haughn said the psychic told her something dramatic: There was a curse on Haughn and her family.
Haughn said Ann Marie convinced her that by performing a number of rituals, the curse could be removed, a curse that was put on Haughn's family many years ago.
Detective Norman Saunders of the Cresskill Police Department said the woman Haughn knew as Ann Marie was well known to police as a con artist.
"She has eight different names. Ann Marie is her fortunetelling name and Tammy Mitchell is her real name," Saunders said. "She served time in jail in Florida for the same type of offense. Her goal in life is to scam people."
Saunders said he knew of at least four others in the county who'd gotten scammed for tens of thousands of dollars. "When you first get the statements, you kind of think, how could these people do this? But as you talk to the victims, it could be anyone that this happens to. Anyone who is vulnerable."