Fortuneteller Turns Out to be a Curse to Late San Jose Woman

'MISS DONNA' PLEADS GUILTY TO GRAND THEFT

By Sean Webby
Mercury News

Article Launched: 08/25/2008 07:54:56 PM PDT

Miss Donna said she had been sent by God to Santana Row to cleanse the San Jose woman of her evil curse.

The curse had been sent by her husband's ex-wife, according to Miss Donna. The psychic could even "see" it there, coiled in the woman's abdominal area.

But instead of ridding the woman of the darkness that lurked inside her, Miss Donna — whose real name is Lola Miller — rid her gullible victim of close to $500,000, in cash, her children's savings, gift certificates, jewelry and luxury suits, according to prosecutor Stan Voyles.

In return for her money, the victim received crucifixes, a holy medal, rosary beads and some green liquid in a bottle. But even the health and happiness the woman was once convinced she had purchased never arrived. She died of cancer three years ago.

Miller, 56, has pleaded guilty to two counts of grand theft as part of an agreement that would reduce her state prison sentence of up to five years if she pays back some of the victim's money. And two of Miller's daughters, 23-year-old Danielle and 27-year-old Lisa Miller are now in custody facing similar charges for their supposed "cleansing" of other victims.

"I'm convinced they have no power," said Deputy District Attorney Stan Voyles. "I don't believe in curses. I'm a rational person."

Such fortune telling scams have been around for as long as police can remember. Nationwide, the "Curse" scam is one of the most effective at parting victims from their money, experts say.

In this case, Lola Miller first met the college-educated, professional woman she scammed in 2004 by walking up to her at Santana Row and saying, "You look sad."

Before long, the woman had agreed to be cleansed of her curse "... at a cost. Fruit juices were poured, chants intoned, eggs broken on her body. But the curse hung on and the costs kept on.

The cost, described in court documents, was astounding: more than $350,000 in cash, taken from her and her husband's accounts, her children's savings and through credit cards. The woman also gave the psychic things such as a barbecue grill and chairs and a pair of diamond earrings worth $10,000. At one point Miller is said to have walked into a luxury men's store in Santana Row and asked about the most expensive suit it carried. After she was told that the suit cost $3,200, the woman said she would take two of them. Then she said her "sister-in-law" would pay. This, Voyles said, was the victim.

Miller told the victim she had to continue her exorbitant payments or dire things would happen. Evil would come to her. Her house would be burned down. Your children and grandchildren will be taken away.

"You will be buried," Miller told her, according to police reports

The woman grew suspicious, especially when she saw "Miss Donna" getting into a limousine.

In 2005, the woman's husband discovered the scam and told police. He has agreed to give all restitution to cancer research center in Colorado.

San Jose police soon found that Miller was well known among law enforcement. San Francisco police said she had been operating the same scam there since the late 1990s. She also had similar convictions in New York state, Virginia and New Jersey, where she was extradited to face these charges.

A day after Lola Miller pleaded guilty to the scam, her two daughters — who had come to San Jose for the court appearance — were arrested on suspicion of similar scams. Voyles said that Danielle had scammed one woman out of $36,000 for her curse-cleansing service. Lisa was arrested on a warrant related to a similar scam when she arrived to pick up Danielle's children. Lisa scammed a woman back in 2005 for about $100,000, police said, including a new Corvette.

Voyles said: "One wonders what God would do with a Corvette."

Anyone who has given money to Danielle or Lisa Miller should contact district attorney investigator Dennis Brookins at (408) 792-2851.

Contact Sean Webby at swebby@mercurynews.com or (408) 920-5003.