A Toronto man was charged with witchcraft, extortion, and fraud over $5000 after he allegedly convinced a customer to pay him more than $100,000 to remove an “evil spirit” from a family member.
Murali Muthyalu (Muthyalu), who calls himself “Master Raghav”, advertised psychic readings for $20 by placing business cards in mailboxes and handing out cards in shopping malls between February and March 2017. Muthyalu, 47, is originally from India and has been in Canada for less than one year.
A 44-year old Brampton man responded to the marketing and visited Muthyalu at the Sri Gavatri Astrological Center, where he was told that his sick daughter was carrying an evil spirit. Muthyalu convinced the man that the spirit could be removed. He performed a series of rituals, telling the man each time that it was not working, and that he had to pay for an additional ritual. The price of each additional ceremony escalated until the man spent a total of $101,000.
When the man realized that his daughter was not getting better, he realized that Muthyalu was a fraud and called the police.
Witchcraft under the Criminal Code of Canada
It often comes as a surprise to many that witchcraft is an offense under the Criminal Code. Indeed, while the law is archaic, “pretending to practice witchcraft” remains on the books and is still enforced.
In 2012, another Toronto man was charged with pretending to practice witchcraft after he convinced a woman that she was cursed and that he could remove the alleged curse for $14,000. Charges were also brought against two other people in 2010 and in 2009 for extorting large sums of money from individuals who believed that these “psychic healers” would be able to rid them of a curse or a possessed spirit.
Under the Criminal Code, pretending to practice witchcraft includes anyone who “pretends to exercise or to use any kind of witchcraft, sorcery, enchantment or conjuration”, or anyone who “undertakes, for consideration, to tell fortunes”. Ostensibly, this covers anyone who practices as a psychic (even those individuals who do not set out to defraud their customers); however, it may be possible to defend such charges if a person genuinely believes that they possess psychic abilities.
If you have been charged with fraud or any related offense, contact the Oshawa fraud lawyers at Affleck & Barrison online or at 905 404 1947. We will take the steps necessary to protect your best interests, both immediately and in the long-term. We offer a free initial consultation to all prospective clients.