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Flushing psychic charged in scam to grant ‘powers’

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A Flushing fortune teller has been charged with theft after allegedly promising to bestow psychic powers on a client for $8,000, authorities said.

Ying Liu, 45, was arrested Dec. 20 and arraigned the following day on charges of grand larceny in the third degree and fortune telling, according to the criminal complaint filed against her.

Liu, who was released on her own recognizance without having to put up bail, faces up to seven years in prison if convicted, according to a spokeswoman for Queens District Attorney Richard Brown.

Liu was arrested after a former client, 30-year-old Chung Chen Ling of Long Island, brought her business to the attention of the authorities.

Ling learned of Liu’s fortune-telling activities through advertisements Liu took out in a Chinese-language newspaper.

In June 2001, Ling gave Liu $8,000 to predict his own future and to give him the same powers, the district attorney said.

Months later, Ling found that he had not acquired any such powers and demanded his money back, the district attorney said.

But Liu refused and told Ling to take her to court, the criminal complaint said.

Fortune-telling in New York State is illegal, although the crime is rarely prosecuted. Fortunes, however, can be told so long as the teller makes clear the service is for entertainment purposes only.

Investigators were looking into whether or not Liu had taken money from other clients based on similar promises, the district attorney said.

Liu’s attorney, Scott Bookstein, questioned the decision to prosecute his client.

“I think all this press attention is a problem which potentially brings all kinds of crazies out of the woodwork,” he said. “These are people who alleged that they did cash transactions, and they have no proof of it.”

Bookstein also challenged the basis for Ling’s case.

“Is the complaint that the predictions didn’t come true or that he didn’t like the predictions?” he asked. “What exactly is the complainant’s grievance here?”

Liu operated out of 41-60 Main St., according to the complaint against her. But Chinese newspaper accounts place her practice at 136-17 Roosevelt Ave., and an employee of Miao Shan Multi-Center at the Roosevelt Avenue address said Liu worked there.

Miao Shan Multi-Center has a sign outside saying it specializes in the telling of destiny and fortunes as well the “training of learners” in both English and Chinese.

Liu is scheduled to return to the Kew Gardens court of Judge Stephen Knopf on Feb. 19.

Liu’s case marks the second time in recent months that businesses which advertise in Chinese-language papers have raised controversy.

In the fall, two downtown Flushing immigration agencies which had advertised became the targets of potential lawsuits by local attorneys.

The agencies charged fees as high as $35,000, promising to secure green cards for Chinese immigrants, and then packed up and left town, according to attorney Ming Hai.

Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300 Ext. 141.

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