A Florida woman claimed she “was able to communicate with the spirit world” and represented herself as a psychic and spiritual healer, “with God-given powers.”
Court documents say she claimed she was “able to communicate with the spirit world and to assist clients through personal difficulties.”
Apparently, this woman, Sherry Tina Uwanawich, “saw the light,” so to speak, and figured out she was not going to be able to win a lawsuit that had been filled against her by a Texas woman who said she was fleeced out of $1.6 million by Uwanawich over a seven-year period.
According to court documents, the Texas woman said from 2007 through 2014, Uwanawich took money, jewelry and other valuables from her after convincing her that “spirit guides” told her the woman’s mother had died from a “curse” that had been placed upon her and this “curse” had been passed on to her.
Uwanawich, operating under the assumed name Jacklyn Miller in Palm Beach County, Miami and other parts of South Florida, said she would remove the “curse” but that it would come a high cost to the woman, listed as V.G. in court documents.
Plea agreement and sentence
In June, Uwanawich signed a plea agreement in which she would agree to plead guilty to one count of wire fraud. Federal prosecutors agreed to drop other charges.
She also agreed to abide by a federal judge’s sentence, carrying a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, a $250,000 fine or twice the value of the gross gain or loss — whichever was greater. The sentence could also add a $100 special assessment and restitution, according to documents filed by Roger Stefin, an assistant U.S. attorney in Florida.
The court issued its sentence on Sept. 6.
Uwanawich, 47, who lists Fort Lauderdale as her home on her Facebook page, was sentenced to three years and four months in a Florida prison. After her release, she must be on supervised release for three years and pay the woman $1.6 million in restitution.
How long would it take to pay restitution?
That may take some time.
The court order mandates that if Uwanawich gets a prison job, 50% of her wages will be applied to the debt. If she doesn’t get such a job she has to pay $25 every four months toward the financial obligations. And upon release, she has to pay restitution at the rate of 10% of her grossly earnings “until such time as the court may alter the payment schedule in the interests of justice.”
If Uwanawich was to somehow be elected president of the United States she’d earn a base salary of $400,000. That would mean she’d pay $40,000 a year to her victim. At that salary rate, it would take her 40 years to pay her victim $1.6 million.
Lifting the “curse”
According to the court, here’s what led to Uwanawich’s sentencing:
Uwanawich met V.G. in Houston in 2007.
She sought to identify herself as a fortune teller who could “assist clients suffering from physical, emotional and spiritual difficulties.”
She said “meditations” allowed her to communicate with spirits and higher beings.
She told V.G. that these spirit guides told her she and her family were suffering from “a curse, which was the cause of the victim’s current turmoil/strife.”
Uwanawich told V.G. she could assist her by ridding her and her family and blood line of this curse, placed upon her by a “witch in South America” and “restore harmony and balance” to her life.
V.G.’s family was from South America.
But in order to do this, Uwanawich told V.G. she had to pay cash to purchase various expensive “materials” such as special candles and crystals, court documents say.
This gradually grew to include jewelry, personal property, a debit card to deposit money into Uwanawich’s bank account “at will” and drawn from ATMs in South Florida, and a demand that V.G. send funds from Texas to Uwanawich in Florida via Western Union wires.
These wire transfers is the means by which prosecutors got their conviction and the court passed sentence.
Their “sessions” happened via telephone and occasionally in person.
She also instructed V.G. to not tell others about their meetings or the large sums of money she was paying or it “would ruin the work.”
Ultimately, more than a million in cash and property such as clothing and a leased automobile went to Uwanawich, according to the court.
V.G., court documents say, came up with the money by taking student loans and working extra hours at a nightclub while she was in medical school and giving Uwanawich money from a family inheritance.
But then in 2014, V.G. visited Uwanawich in South Florida and Uwanawich “admitted that she had lied about the victim being cursed,” a June 2019 court document says.
“She explained that she came from a family in which ‘fortune telling’ was part of the tradition and claimed that she wanted to break from that lifestyle. She apologized for deceiving the victim and said that wanted to repay her.”
But until this week’s court decision, no repayments were made.
Time will tell if they ever will.
Sentence is ‘harsh’
Uwanawich’s lawyer, James Stewart Lewis, told The Washington Post he “feels bad” for his client.
Lewis told the Post Uwanawich was forced into fortune telling by her “Roma” family and that she was diagnosed with schizophrenia, “which led her to believe she had psychic abilities.”
In August, a month before her sentencing, Uwanawich posted a rant to her Facebook page claiming crimes by “gypsies, tramps and thieves” paled in comparison to things like American “mass shootings.”
Lewis feels the court sentence was “pretty harsh.”