A man claiming to be a fortune teller — and who police say used voodoo, Satanic items and a snake to lure customers — was arrested on suspicion of theft by false pretenses after a woman said she paid him $50,000 to get rid of a curse.
The woman told police she visited the business in the 3500 block of Arlington Avenue in Riverside this summer to have her fortune read. Andres Pena Meneses, 31, who went by the name “Carlos,” convinced her she had parasites in her body that he could remove for a fee of several hundred dollars, authorities said.
Meneses later contacted the woman numerous times and convinced her that her family was cursed and her children were in danger. In total, police said, the woman paid Meneses over $50,000.
On Tuesday, Oct. 26, Riverside Police Department detectives served a search warrant at Meneses’ home and business. While at the business, detectives encountered more of Meneses customers, who said Meneses had told them to bring him their mattresses from home, said Officer Ryan Railsback, spokesman for the Riverside Police Department.
Detectives believe Meneses and his staff then planted a live snake and letters in the mattresses so he later could cut them open to show the customers their families were in danger, Railsback said.
Investigators found a small pet python and its carrying container at the business.
As a result of the search, detectives also located a “significant” amount of cash, a voodoo doll, tarot cards, altars, and religious and satanic-type objects, police said in a news release.
Additional victims contacted by police said Meneses advertised his services on the radio and claimed he could cure customers of ailments such as diabetes, headaches, sleep disorders, and nightmares.
“Detectives believe there are many more victims and that the Spanish-speaking community was specifically targeted,” Railsback said.
Meneses was previously arrested and convicted in Chicago in 2019 for fraud and claiming to be a faith healer, officials said. Detectives are still investigating how long Meneses, who is a Colombian national, has had his business in Riverside.
He was arrested and booked into the Robert Presley Detention Center on Oct. 26 on suspicion of grand theft and theft by false pretenses, both felonies. He was released later that day after posting $57,000 bail.
No one else from the business was taken into custody, Railsback said.
Anyone with additional information should contact Detective Cory Camp at 951-353-7117 or CCamp@RiversideCA.gov.