By HAYLEY MICK
Toronto Globe and Mail
February 27, 2006
Last month, Sophie Evon, 76, pulled her best vanishing act on the Canadian authorities. She skipped town just before she was to be extradited to the United States from Toronto to face first-degree fraud charges for allegedly defrauding a heartbroken Seattle woman of $220,000.
Now, a Canada-wide warrant has been issued for the palm reader, and police on both sides of the border warn that it's only a matter of time before another vulnerable person falls victim to her charms.
"We want her back here and we won't stop until she's caught," said Seattle Detective Dan Stokes.
This is the second time the wily fortune teller has wriggled from the grasp of law enforcement officials.
In August of 1999, while in Seattle, Evon, then 71, and her daughter-in-law, Sylvia Lee, pulled off their most ambitious scam.
According to court documents, Lee met a 26-year-old video-store clerk who told her she was depressed because her boyfriend had dumped her for a former lover.
What the clerk needed, Lee advised, was a spiritual cleansing.
Believing Lee could help her, the woman went to Lee's Seattle home with a sign out front that read "Psychic & Astrology Readings."
While there, she also met a woman named Sophie Evon.
Over 12 days in August, the two fortune tellers talked of casting out evil spells and sensing a battle between light and darkness. Leaves were burned for spiritual cleansing and almost $10,000 worth of jewelry and gold coins were bought with the video clerk's money to build a wall around her.
Along the way, the fortune tellers produced a white candle and told the woman, who was college-educated, to write down the amount of her savings on a white piece of paper. She scribbled down $330,000 - an overestimate of the life savings of her elderly parents, who were living in her native China.
The fortune tellers then told her to bring them all the money, in cash, in order to win her ex-boyfriend back.
At first the woman balked, but then Evon asked if she wanted her boyfriend to be "lonely and miserable forever," according to the court documents.
After a couple of days, she gave them $45,000 in cash in exchange for a note saying she would get the money back the next day. As promised, the money was returned and the woman felt reassured.
That's when the fortune tellers warned her that her ex-boyfriend was in serious trouble and, even worse, was planning to marry his girlfriend soon.
Wanting to help him, she liquidated her parents' retirement savings accounts, and handed over $209,500 in crisp $100 bills. The fortune tellers promised to give the money back after they prayed over the bills for 24 hours.
Two days later, the woman broke into the fortune tellers' home, desperately searching for the money.
Seattle police, who were responding to a call about a burglary in progress, found her in the abandoned house crying hysterically.
"I feel so bad, so guilty," she told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer months later.
Prosecutors filed first-degree theft charges against both women, but the psychics had fled to Canada. Toronto police arrested them in October of 1999.
Lee, an American citizen, was deported and faced the first-degree fraud charges in Seattle.
During her trial, she claimed that her mother-in-law masterminded the fraud and forced her to participate with threats of beatings and rape, said King County prosecutor Scott Peterson.
Lee received an 18-month jail sentence.
Meanwhile, the courts in Canada were having trouble pinning down Evon. While she appeared to be a Canadian citizen, her past was almost impossible to trace because of her multiple aliases, police say. Then she had a stroke.
"We finally got to the point where she was about to be extradited and suddenly she comes out and says she had a stroke," said Peterson, adding the claim is dubious despite a confirmation from Evon's doctor.
"What are the odds?"
Evon's health concerns dragged out the extradition process for several years. She reported her whereabouts to police every week, but in the meantime, she continued to work the tarot card and palm reading business in Toronto.
Last October, Evon, another woman who said she was her daughter, and a young boy moved into a west-end Toronto apartment, filled mostly with Asian tenants.
They set up a fortune-telling business in the ground-level store and lived in an upstairs apartment.
But in mid-December, their landlord, who asked not to be named, said she showed up to collect $1,800 in overdue rent and found the place abandoned except for some garbage.
"She had taken off into the night," said Detective Mike McGivern of Toronto police's fugitive squad.
Information has led Canadian police to believe that Evon is hiding in Vancouver. Canadian and U.S. authorities are still holding out hope they can arrest her once more.
"It's ridiculous to think that she can get away with these things," said Stokes, who works in the Seattle police's criminal intelligence unit.
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