Psychic Sylvia Browne once failed to foresee her own criminal conviction
Self-claimed “psychic, medium, clair-voyant, channel” Sylvia Browne has gained notoriety by appearing on Montel Williams and Larry King Live and by writing books that bill her as a “New York Times Bestselling Author.” Not so well known, however, is that–before adding an e to her surname–Sylvia Celeste Brown was involved in selling securities to a gold-mining venture while failing to foresee the true consequences: the venture failed, and she and her estranged husband were subsequently indicted on several counts of investment fraud and grand theft.
The criminal complaint, filed in the Superior Court of Santa Clara County, California, on May 26, 1992, alleged that the Browns sold securities in the venture under false pretenses. Although telling a couple their $20,000 investment was to be used for immediate operating costs, the complaint stated, the Browns transferred the money to an account for their Nirvana Foundation for Psychic Research. Just one month later, in April 1988, the complaint stated, they declared bankruptcy in the venture.
Reporting on the pair’s arraignment, the June 6, 1992, San Francisco Chronicle noted that “Sylvia Brown claimed to have strong psychic ‘feelings’ that the mine would pay off.” (The Chronicle dipping resurfaced recently in a review of some old files, and investigator Vaughn Rees undertook the job of obtaining certified copies of the papers for criminal case #16303.)
The documents show that Sylvia and her estranged husband Kenzil Dalzell Brown pleaded no contest to a felony charge of “sale of security without permit,” made restitution in the case, and received one year probation each. Dalzell’s disposition included “County Jail 4 mos[.] with credit for time served of 21 days,” while Sylvia’s included 200 hours of community service.
In her book, Adventures of a Psychic (written with Antoinette May, 1998 ed.), Browne blames her 1988 bankruptcy declaration on her ex-husband’s “attempt to hide his illegal doings,” without mentioning her felony conviction in the gold-mine case. She laments that while “ignorant people” say, “Well, if you’re so psychic, why didn’t you …,” the answer, she says, is that “I am not psychic about myself.” Frankly, one might not wish to buy that excuse, or much of anything else involving claimed psychic powers, from Sylvia Browne–with or without the e.
Joe Nickell is CSICOP’s Senior Research Fellow.
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