Brazil woman and psychic con mum out of $140m in art and cash - police

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Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Police hold a painting by artist Tarsila do Amaral, thought to be worth tens of millions of dollars

A woman in Brazil has been arrested on suspicion of using a psychic to swindle her mother out of more than $140m (£114m) in art, cash and jewellery.

The alleged victim is reportedly the widow of one of Brazil's foremost art collectors.

Her daughter is accused of stealing her artwork by using a psychic to pretend it was cursed.

One painting - by one of Brazil's most celebrated artists - was reportedly found stashed under a bed.

According to police in Rio de Janeiro and local media reports, the scam began in 2020 when the victim was told by a supposed psychic that her daughter was ill and was persuaded to pay for treatment.

In the months that followed, police say the daughter and an accomplice posing as a psychic "began to take the artwork from the house, claiming that the painting was cursed with something negative, with negative energy that needed to be prayed over".

The scheme went on to involve several accomplices, police said.

The daughter and the other suspects allegedly mistreated the victim, keeping her at home for months.

"They took 16 paintings," police officer Gilberto Ribeiro told Reuters - including works by renowned Brazilian artists.

"We concluded in the preliminary check that all the characteristics of the seized paintings are compatible with the authentic paintings," another officer added.

Three pieces from Tarsila do Amaral - an iconic Brazilian modernist painter - were also stolen, which together police valued at $137.69m.

One of the paintings, Sol Poente, was found under one of the suspect's beds, according to local media, while other works had reportedly been sold to art galleries.

Police say seven people are suspected of involvement in the years-long crime and face charges of embezzlement, robbery, extortion, false imprisonment and criminal association, Reuters reported.

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