The 40-year-old man visited a psychic in Chinatown for a $5 reading. Over the next several weeks, D.C. police said, the psychic swindled him out of nearly $15,000, virtually emptying his bank account.
Police said that, when the cash was gone, the psychic persuaded the mentally disabled man to apply for loans and to use his credit cards to buy her glassware from Pier 1 Imports and earrings from Nordstrom.
Authorities said the psychic told the man that a former co-worker of his who had moved to Paris harbored a romantic interest in him, and that the woman had been raped and needed money. The psychic told him she would deliver the funds, police said in an application for a search warrant filed in court.
On Friday, police arrested Lizabeth Stevens, 43, who works out of a second-floor apartment above a small rice-and-noodle restaurant on Sixth Street, between H and I streets in Northwest Washington. She was charged with financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult.
Police said the man's relatives in Arlington didn't notice something was amiss until the man's bank account fell from $15,337.76 to $13.38 in less than four weeks, and credit card application forms started arriving in the mail. The man's sister contacted the police. Some of the money had been legitimately withdrawn, but police said the total amount he gave to the psychic was $14,480.
"It's our job to protect the most vulnerable," D.C. police said in announcing the arrest on Twitter. "Thanks to the hard work of our Financial Crimes Unit, we arrested a 43-year-old psychic for financially exploiting an adult male she knew was mentally impaired."
The victim's family did not respond to interview requests. Police said the 40-year-old man, who also lives in Northern Virginia, has the mental capacity of an 8-year-old.
The court documents and police report do not say how the man first came in contact with the psychic. He works for the Peace Corps in the District, his family told police. He started seeing the psychic on Nov. 3; his last visit was Nov. 29.
Stevens has worked as a psychic for several years in downtown Washington, according to her ads and reviews on the Internet. She at one point had an office near Sixth and I streets NW, and later moved to the location in the 800 block of Sixth Street NW. Police said she also lives there; her small reading room is next to her kitchen.
A woman who answered the phone at Stevens's business Friday said it was closed and that there wasn't anyone associated with the operation who could talk to a reporter. Signs advertising the business were no longer visible.
Alice Den, who works at the Chinese restaurant below the psychic studio, said she saw Stevens in passing or when their mail got mixed up.
Den said that Stevens had eaten at China Boy and that she had helped direct lost customers to the upstairs studio. Den said she was surprised when she saw police cars outside her restaurant earlier this week; police searched the psychic studio Tuesday.
Police said in the search warrant application that two detectives visited Stevens at her apartment in January and told Stevens that her client was missing and that they were investigating his disappearance. Police said the story was a ruse.
The court documents say Stevens admitted that she had met the man several times and that the man told her he was romantically interested in the co-worker. She told police that the man "wanted to be loved" and that he appeared depressed, but also that he "wasn't all together" and that "something was missing."
She told police that talking to him "was like talking to one of her grandchildren."
Police said they believe that Stevens learned about the man's former co-worker through personal questions during an initial session.
After he heard the rape story, police said, the man withdrew $11,000 from his bank account and gave it to Stevens. He then gave her additional money, typically in the form of $1,000 checks, until his account had just a few dollars left, police said. He then started applying for loans.
"Once letters about [a] loan started to arrive at the [man's] residence, this is when his family became aware of the situation," police said in the warrant application.
According to police, Stevens contacted the man using text messages, advising him of different stores that offered credit cards, and contained what Stevens passed off as conversations she was having with the former co-worker in France.
Lauren Lumpkin contributed to this report.