A woman in Brazil has been arrested for allegedly using a psychic to swindle her mother out of $140 million (£114 million) worth of painting, cash and jewellery.
The victim—Genevieve Boghici, widow of one of Brazil’s top art collectors—was convinced by a psychic hired by her own daughter that the collection was cursed. One of the paintings by famous Brazilian artist Tarsila do Amaral was reportedly found stashed under a bed.
According to Rio de Janeiro police, the scam began in 2020 and was reported by local media outlets at the time. The widow was told by the psychic that her daughter was very ill, and persuaded her to pay for treatment.
In the following months, her daughter Sabin Coll Boghici and supposed psychic accomplice “began to take the artwork from the [mother’s] house, claiming that the painting was cursed with something negative, with negative energy that needed to be prayed over,” Rio de Janeiro police officer Gilberto Ribeiro told Reuters.
The scam went on to involve six other people, four of whom have been arrested. The remaining two are currently on the run.
Genevieve was said to have been physically threatened by the suspects and was kept at home for months by her daughter. After almost a year of harassment and mistreatment by the scammers, the widow decided she’d had enough and went to the police.
Officials reported that 16 paintings were stolen in total, with some curated by renowned Brazilian artists such as Cicero Dias, Rubens Gerchman and Alberto Guignard. Three pieces from the aforementioned modernist painter Amaral were also stolen, and were estimated to be worth $137.69 million (£112.80 million).
11 of the 16 paintings were recovered from one of the suspects’ homes in Rio de Janeiro and three more have been found in São Paulo. Two were sold to a museum in Buenos Aires, however, and have yet to be returned.
Police reported that the seven people involved in the crime face charges of embezzlement, robbery, extortion, false imprisonment and criminal association.