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Self-Described Gypsy Challenges Montgomery County's Ban on Fortunetelling

Laws against fraud are on the books, and if a fortuneteller breaks the law, Quereshi said, the county can prosecute under the existing guidelines. Otherwise, the ban becomes a tool to inhibit Nefedro's First Amendment rights to free expression and to practice his religion, Quereshi said.

Montgomery officials see it differently.

"I don't think it's strange for us to have laws that protect against fraud," said Clifford Royalty, zoning division chief in the Montgomery County attorney's office, adding that "religion has nothing to do with it. He's not made that allegation in the lawsuit."

"The practice is fraudulent," Royalty said, "because no one can forecast the future."

Nefedro insists that he can.

"It's not like you choose it," Nefedro said. "You're born with it."

He said he noticed at a young age that he saw things that no one else could see.

"Some people just see a palm, or see the cards," Nefedro said. "I see a sign in it."

Now that his attempt to overturn the law and start a fortunetelling business in Bethesda has started a chapter with an uncertain conclusion, knowing his own fortune would be quite valuable.

Unfortunately, he says, fortunetelling doesn't work that way: He can't read his fortune.

But his attorney said he has a pretty good idea.

"I rate it fairly well," Edward Amourgis said of his client's chance in court. "I wouldn't call that a psychic reading. I just kind of know it, and I wasn't fined for saying it."

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