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Accused witch arrested

|Written By Tim Shufelt

A woman accused of posing as a lawyer and offering legal services was arrested last week and faces two counts of fraud as well as a rarely laid witchcraft charge.

Vishwantee Persaud faces multiple fraud charges after she allegedly posed as a law student. One of her alleged victims, Toronto lawyer Noel Daley, says he lost $148,000.

Toronto police allege that Vishwantee Persaud has no formal legal training but managed to fool multiple people, including a seasoned criminal lawyer, into believing she was a practising lawyer or law student.

At the time she was taken into custody, she was supposed to be under house arrest for previous fraud convictions.

“She has a very long history of fraud-related offences,” says Det.-Const. Corey Jones.

Jones says that since police issued the warrant for Persaud’s arrest, at least one other alleged victim came forward with a complaint.

One couple claimed they paid the woman $2,000 for immigration services, after which they were unable to reach her.

But that pales in comparison to the amount of money Persaud is accused of conning out of Noel Daley.

“In my career, in a couple of months, I’ll be 28 years at this. I’ve encountered every type of confidence man.

I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly,” Daley says. “She was the epitome of the skills that make up a good confidence man.”

None of the allegations have been proven in court. As of the time of publication, Persaud was seeking to be released on bail. Her lawyer couldn’t be reached for comment.

Daley was a year away from retiring as a criminal lawyer in downtown Toronto and moving back to Newfoundland when he says he first met Persaud in January.

She told him she was in her third year of studies at Osgoode Hall Law School, he says. Police would later say the closest the 36-year-old came to entering the legal profession was applying to law school in the mid-1990s.

Daley says Persaud identified criminal law as a possible focus, so he quizzed her on specific elements of the legal process, everything from bail hearings to judicial pretrials.

“She answered them with such accuracy and detail, I was impressed,” Daley says, adding he was convinced she had closely studied criminal law and even had some hands-on experience.

“It never occurred to me that the reason she knew the criminal law system in such detail is because she had been a participant in the criminal law system as an accused.”

He claims Persaud went on to tell him that her family was in dire financial straights.

By his assessment, Persaud was a promising law student in need of a little mentoring and a little employment.

“I have a heart the size of Newfoundland and Labrador put together, and she recognized that,” Daley alleges.

Within a month, he says he took her under his wing, set her up with space in his Richmond Street practice, and began paying her a modest salary. He was soon giving her a little money to help pay for her parents’ groceries, he says.

He says she then gave him a tarot card reading, which Daley accuses Persaud of using to exploit his religious beliefs to ultimately get money out of him.

During the reading, he says she claimed to be inhabited by the spirit of his older sister, who was visiting him to guide him to prosperity.

“I did not believe that on a literal level but I did believe it on a metaphorical level,” Daley says, citing his belief that his deceased loved ones guide him in positive ways.

“I accepted that in the framework of my Catholic faith,” Daley says.

He says he had Persaud work on minor legal assignments for a few months, attributing her need for much guidance to a steep learning curve.

Then in May, he says she came to him with a proposal. She allegedly said she had previously run a highly successful marketing firm in downtown Toronto and had been asked by Sony, a previous client, to take on a major project involving the launch of a touch-screen remote-control system.

For her work, she said she would be paid $850,000, but her project costs would be no more than $250,000, according to Daley. The profits would be his, he says.

But she allegedly said that to oversee the project, she would need premiere office space with full modern electronic infrastructure.

So he claims he leased for her “the most expensive office space in the country” on the 57th floor of First Canadian Place in the heart of the financial district.

Daley says Persaud later fell out of favour with the building’s management and had to vacate, so he moved her into an office on Charles Street East.

He alleges he was soon hemorrhaging money for rent, utilities, computers, phones, and salaries to Persaud and her associates.

More elaborate business proposals followed, requiring larger and larger cash outlays, Daley claims.

Persaud had a plan to represent visiting movie stars at the Toronto International Film Festival, he says.

He would bankroll the security, transportation, hotels, and meals for stars such as Keanu Reeves, Rachel McAdams, Vin Diesel, and Eugene Levy, he says.

Daley also claims he gave her about $18,000 for cancer treatments.

Then there was money for clothing, gym memberships, and spa treatments, Daley alleges.

“All of this was supposed to be so she could represent me in a spectacular fashion.”

He says he finally realized something was amiss when the celebrities he was supposedly endorsing failed to show up at parties he believed he was paying to host them at.

“I didn’t want to believe it was a hoax because it meant financial ruin for me,” he alleges.

Daley then made the difficult decision to tell his story to police. “My desire to make an easy buck clouded my judgment.” His final price tag was $148,000, he claims.

He soon learned about Persaud’s previous convictions and then the allegations that she defrauded other legal clients, who then got in touch with him.

“Once this house of tarot cards came tumbling down, I started to get calls.”

He says he felt obligated to take care of their legal needs.

In addition to the fraud charges, Persaud faces multiple counts of failing to comply as well as the witchcraft charge in relation to the alleged tarot card reading.

Fraudulently pretending to exercise witchcraft, sorcery, enchantment or conjuration is a summary conviction offence under the Criminal Code.

“Very rarely do we get to lay that charge,” Jones says.

  • Buying her way into high society = Fraud

    Good Source
    It takes years of truly believing your are "good witch" to take on that charactor and convince others enough to obtain funding for personal goals. Buying her way into high society, film stars, the well connected, the address.......

    This is not a case of Witchcraft, this is simply a women deparately needing to buy her self into a world where she truly believes is the only way of life, this is beyond this case, its inbeded in her blood,

    thanks socieity............
  • Religious discrimination

    It seems to me that the charges should only be for fraud. Claiming that she is "pretending to be a Witch" is religious discrimination. When the public was fleeced by Jim Bakker, was he charged with "pretending to be a Christian"? No, he was charged with fraud. I am a Christian and would be hardpressed to "prove it" in court. Similarly, it would be difficult to prove sincerity in Witchcraft. Perhaps they will throw her into a lake and see if she floats or sinks? The law is archaic and should be removed.

    Mr. Daley is welcome to call me anytime so I make him rich again.
    I have spiritual powers especially when I am drinking.
  • OMG

    a friend
    I believed a guy at TD Waterhouse was a stockwizard, he told me he was, I lost a litle more than NOEL, will my broker be charged for practicing wizardry OR was I just a litte bit Naive and Greedy and within the bounds of legal wizardry. If anybody can find my dead relatives, please contact me so I can finance your law degree so that you can represent me on my claim against TD.
  • Apply the law

    Toobey - you really need to simply apply the law in this situation, rather than brigng up irrelevant scenarios
  • anonymous
    If you pretend to be anyone or anything other then who you are for the purpose of financial gain, or to swindle someone out of their money, then it's FRAUD! It's not rocket science people.
    Wonder if she collects welfare too?
  • Jim Turner
    Actually, the criminal code charge is for "PRETENDING" to practices witchcraft. If a person had an honest belief that he or she was actually practicing witchcraft, in my opinion they would have a defence and be not guilty.
  • Wha?

    Pretending to practice witchcraft? I am not Christian. If I make a sign-of-the-cross in public I can be charged with pretending to be a Christian? I am not Jewish. If light a menorah can I be charged with pretending to practice Judaism? She would be guilty with a firm belief or not. The point is that she was a con artist and committed fraud. THAT is all she should be charged with. The witchcraft charge is ludicrous.
  • Justice Spells

    Dana Horochowski
    There should be a law against manipulation of the Legal System using witchcraft.
    I was victim to witchcraft spells and manipulation. When my healer protected me, the perpetraitor went after the judge to try and influence things to work in her corrupted favour. $3200 it took to break the spell off the judge.
  • What a crock!

    Am I in violation of the law since I am a witch and read tarot? Am I to be charged with witchcraft because I do spell-work in the privacy of my own home? Charges should be laid in this case of course, but only for fraud and extortion maybe. But witchcraft? Morons. So she used tarot as a one of her many tools in her scheme. Just because she used a deck of cards to swindle him that doesn't make her a witch, just a con-artist.
  • Witch Hunt!

    Yvon Tripper
    I hope she doesn't plead guilty, for the sole reason that it's always been a goal of mine to attend a witch trial.

    "If she weighs the same as a duck... she's made of wood."
    "And therefore..."
    "A witch! "
  • Fraud is Fraud... sooner or later... YOU WILL PAY!

    Usually Sooner, than Later.

    Vishwantee change your ways...
    or you'll spend your entire LIFE
    behind Brick Walls.
  • lawyer

    Keith A.
    What is amusing that the section is worded so that only fraudulent and pretend witchcraft is illegal. One has to wonder how can one prove the witchcraft was only "pretend". After all, since witchcraft might be considered a form of religion, a judge's presumption that all witchcraft is "pretend" could be characterized as judicial bias and religious discrimination.
  • Feòrag
    The language sounds like the law is based closely on the 18th century English Witchcraft Act, and "pretend" at that time meant "claim". The law itself abolished the death penalty for witchcraft on the grounds that there was no such thing, therefore claiming that you could do it was fraudulent.

    It was repealed in England in the 1950s as it had been used only against Spiritualist mediums. The act which replaced it, the Fraudulent Mediums Act, meant that sincere religious practice was protected, but that those who claimed magical powers with the intent to rip someone off could still be prosecuted.
  • Guest
    sadly, that is a very good point.
  • Padraic Ryan

    Mike H
    Why is there not more space devoted to the witchcraft charge? It's high time we let these broom riding banshees know that we will no longer allow Harry Potter to corrupt our impressionable youth.
  • oh please witch craft

    Rob D
    isn't it time we stepped out of the passed, honestly if you believe in witchcraft, then do you also believe in the boogie man? seriously, I thought witch hunts went out of style long ago? don't you think its about time we just let it go? I mean lets prosecute Catholics for what happened to Jesus, since were dredging up the passed
  • wha?

    I am trying to decide if you are trying to be funny and sarcastic or are just a bigoted, close-minded moron.
  • CAWM: Canadian Anti Witch Movement

    Padraic Ryan
    Bigot? This is a serious issue. I suspect that your real identity is Marcus McBain, Grand Apogee of the CPWM (Canadian Pro Witch Movement). Reveal yourself spell-caster! Make your identity known!!!
  • lol

    With as many people in the world following valid/legal faith paths that are also claimed Witches I find it funny that you would immediately assume that this person is your CPWM person. I happen to know many Christian Witches here in the US and the key is understanding the bible and the climate in which it was written. We are not all followers of Harry Potter (a rather cute fictional childrens story) and I feel that the woman charged just claimed to be a medium as part of her con and was not infact a real one. Sad, but with so many fake preachers out there stealing money from innocent church goers, not all that surprising.
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