Feds: Bookkeeper steals fortune from psychic
By CRISTINA KUMKA Staff Writer | June 11,2009
The former bookkeeper of an internationally known psychic from Dorset has agreed to plead guilty in court to federal felony charges levied against her by prosecutors who say she executed a scheme to swindle roughly $200,000.
Denise Hall of East Arlington faces one count of wire fraud and one count of filing a false tax return after investigators with the U.S. Attorney's office say she stole money from self-proclaimed spiritual medium Rosemary Altea — using four credit cards to obtain cash advances, forging checks and giving herself unauthorized electronic paychecks all under Altea's name for the past seven years, according to court records.
She faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a fine up to $250,000 for wire fraud and a maximum three years in prison and an additional $250,000 fine for filing the false tax information.
Along with the charge filed Wednesday is a plea agreement, signed by Hall, stating "the defendant represents that she intends to plead guilty because she is, in fact, guilty of the crimes with which she is charged."
No court date was available.
Prosecutors claim Hall is responsible for embezzling and diverting between $120,000 and $200,000 from Altea between early 2001 and the middle of 2008, according to federal prosecutors.
Hall's criminal scheme crossed state lines in March of last year when she used one of the Altea's credit cards to obtain a cash advance of $500 from a bank in Manchester, which then cleared through an authorization center in Delaware, according to the U.S. Attorney's office.
And to try to cover up her scheme, federal authorities say Hall transferred money from two of Altea's investment and bank accounts to pay the unauthorized expenses on the credit cards.
In 2006, Hall further engaged in perjury when she claimed, on a federal income tax return, that she made $54,570, "whereas, as she then and there well-knew and believed, it was substantially more than that," according to prosecutors.
Hall's attorney, David Silver of Bennington, declined to comment on the case when contacted Wednesday.
Assistant U.S. Attorney William Darrow also declined comment.
Throughout her employment at the home and office of Altea, Hall maintained a computer accounting program, made bank deposits, appointments, took messages, got the mail and processed orders for books and CDs authored by the psychic, who gained international fame following appearances on daytime talk show "Oprah" and CNN's "Larry King Live."
In 2003, Altea, a British-born spiritual teacher and author, won a court battle for the rights to a 580-acre property in Ira, valued at $720,000 at the time, after one of her longtime students left it to her in her will, claiming she wanted it to be used for a spiritual center.