(Photo: Screen Grab via NBC)
A slick-talking fraud posing as a faith healer allegedly convinced two South Florida women that they were possessed by evil spirits, and their money was cursed with a spirit of poverty and only he could cleanse them and their money of the evil.
The only thing trickster Joe Alvarez cleansed from his gullible and vulnerable victims, according Hallandale Beach police in an NBC 6 report, was a collective $130,000.
"His ability to get into them and know that they are into spirituality and to use that as an access into their personal life is impressive," Hallandale Beach Police Det. Edward McGovern noted in the report.
Alvarez's victims were so embarrassed for falling prey to his treachery they hid their faces for interviews with NBC.
"The curse was put on me to be poor, it was put on money, so that's why I had to give all that money, to reverse it," the trickster's first victim in the report.
Alvarez was arrested at an apartment just off Fort Lauderdale Beach on the day before Thanksgiving after police received a tip. He was charged with two counts of grand theft as well as two counts of obtaining property by gaming. He is reportedly being held on $16,000 bond at the North Broward Bureau.
His second victim explained how Alvarez, posing as a spiritual adviser, fleeced her of her money.
"The money that you got that you have is unclean, so you have to take it out of the bank and keep it with you, like sleep on it, just keep it with you because of all the cleansing that I am doing with you and your body," she said he told her.
Alvarez's first victim said she gave him $12,500 initially and gave him several $5,000 payments after that. The second victim was convinced that she needed to withdraw $43,000 from her bank account and hide it under her bed.
A part of Alvarez's act included pretending he set his victims' money on fire to purge it from the evil.
"That money was supposed to come back to me, but then it's like we got to burn it now. So if you have this big bin and he just threw it in there and then I'm like, 'My money!' And he's like, 'You have to leave, you have to leave, like everything's getting dark, there are spirits that are going to come in, leave fast before they follow you,'" said one of the women.
What they didn't know, however, was that Alvarez was swapping out the real money with fake money then setting it on fire.