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Brazilian woman Sabine Coll Boghici, 48, was arrested on Wednesday on suspicion of swindling her mother, Genevieve Boghici, the wife of the late art collector Jean Boghici. Sabine is accused of stealing her mother’s artwork by using a supposed physic to pretend it was cursed.
The scam began in 2020 when Mrs Boghici was approached by a supposed psychic with prophecies of her daughter’s imminent death.
The victim was then taken to several more psychics who police say used personal information provided by her daughter to scam her distraught mother into transferring money to pay for “spiritual treatment.”
In the months that followed, police allege the suspects physically threatened Mrs Boghici and that she was kept at home for months by her daughter.
Rio de Janeiro police officer Gilberto Ribeiro said Sabine and an accomplice posing as a psychic “began to take the artwork from the (mother’s) house, claiming that the painting was cursed with something negative, with negative energy that needed to be prayed over”.
Police say the scam lasted years and involved alleged psychics to swindle artwork by some of Brazil’s most emblematic painters.
Four other people were also arrested and two others, Diana Rosa Aparecida Stanesco Vuletic and Slavko Vuletic, are on the run.
After almost a year of being mistreated by her daughter and her accomplices, Mrs Boghici decided to go to the police.
Police say 16 paintings were stolen, including works by renowned Brazilian artists like Cicero Dias, Rubens Gerchman and Alberto Guignard.
Three pieces from iconic modernist painter Tarsila do Amaral – O Sono, SolPoente and Pont Neuf were also stolen, which together police appraised at a value of 700 million reais (£112.57 million).
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Amaral’s Sol Poente was among 11 paintings recovered Wednesday in a Rio de Janeiro police raid on one of the psychic’s homes.
Authorities have also recovered three paintings in Sao Paulo. Two were sold to a museum in Buenos Aires but have not yet been recovered.
Police say seven people are suspected of involvement in the years-long crime, facing charges of embezzlement, robbery, extortion, false imprisonment and criminal association.
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