A Florida woman who earned more than $3.5 million over seven years for allegedly cleansing an elderly Martha's Vineyard woman of her demons via repeated exorcisms was sentenced to 26 months in federal prison and ordered to repay all the woman's fees and pay the IRS $725,912 in back taxes, the US Attorney's office in Boston reports.
According to the US Attorney's office, the sentence was for Sally Ann Johnson's guilty plea last fall to a federal charge of attempting to interfere with the administration of the Internal Revenue laws.
Rather than reporting her income to the IRS and paying taxes on it, Johnson took steps to conceal it. Specifically, Johnson used an alias and directed the woman to send payments to at least three different bank accounts with which Johnson was associated, including an account in another person’s name. Johnson then withdrew large portions of the woman’s payments from the accounts in cash. In addition, Johnson accrued substantial charges on a credit card held in the name of the elderly woman, who ultimately paid the credit card bills, thereby concealing from the IRS the true extent of Johnson’s income. Neither Johnson nor any of the businesses she operated filed a tax return or paid taxes on the income she received from the woman.
Johnson's attorney argued that Johnson, a Romani with a second-grade education, did not "earn" the money because the woman gave most of it to her as a gift in exchange for the psychic help Johnson gave her, and that while the woman may have been an eccentric free spirit - as well as independently wealthy - she was far from senile. In a sentencing request to the judge in the case, he added:
Among Romani beliefs is the belief that Romani women possess certain spiritual and/or psychic abilities. Ms. Johnson’s grandmother, mother, and stepdaughter each have (or had) these abilities.
Ms. Johnson has been a spiritual advisor and psychic for over 20 years. In that time, and excepting the instant allegations by the Government with respect to V.P. [the victim] she has never been accused of defrauding any of her clients. Indeed, despite the instant allegations, Ms. Johnson has continued to serve her clients’ spiritual needs for the entire time she has been under the supervision of pretrial services while this matter has been pending.
Nice try, prosecutors responded, calling for the maximum sentence of three years, plus restitution:
Johnson is a professional psychic. As she herself reported to Probation, "[f]or decades, the defendant has been earning a living as a spiritual therapist and consultant." "Her income," she admits," depends on the services rendered." She charges money for her work, and she spends money on commercial advertising. She has owned and operated a small collection of businesses, each of which charged its clients money for purported psychic or spiritual services.
It is clear Johnson charged Jane Doe money as well - money Doe believed she was paying in order to have Johnson cleanse her of demons. When Johnson asked for between $125,000 and $175,000 in December 2012, Doe wrote in her diary: "What A4 asked for to deal with demons was too much . . . . Apparently, I am getting very low on funds." A few months later, in February 2013, Doe wrote, "Don’t remember timing, but Angela asked for some more money to finish clearing me - and I am very low." And when Doe’s payments stopped, Johnson called Doe repeatedly to collect and to attempt to renew the lucrative relationship (so many times that, in May 2014, Doe sought a harassment prevention order). ... The relationship between payments and purported services is clear: between 2007 and 2014, Doe paid Johnson over $3.5 million in exchange for what she believed was a service. She did not give the money as a gift.
Boston psychic has license revoked.