BY TOM DALTON
---- — SALEM — A downtown fortunetelling shop accused of charging a customer to remove a curse has been issued a license for two more years.
The Licensing Board last night renewed the license of Fatima’s Psychic Studio, 6 Hawthorne Blvd., through 2015 and also reissued licenses to two fortunetellers at the shop, Fatima Mitchell and her daughter, Tammy Mitchell, neither of whom was linked to the alleged cash-for-curse-removal scam.
The board voted unanimously for the renewal but also warned that it would take “stern action” if a valid complaint is brought in the future.
Fatima’s, which has been in business 21 years, found itself in the middle of a psychic storm in October when police began investigating two separate complaints by customers from New York and New Jersey.
During the course of the investigation, police discovered that the shop had not renewed its fortunetelling license this year and shut it down for about two weeks at the peak of the Halloween season. The license was reinstated in late October.
In the most serious allegation, which was never substantiated, a West Henrietta, N.Y., man said he paid more than $16,000 to have a protective shield placed over him after going to the studio in late August and getting a reading from a psychic named “Debbie,” according to a police report filed with the board.
In the Oct. 10 report, police said they were investigating the complaint. However, last night, Detective Jim Page said police have been unable to contact the customer, listed in the report as Ryan Reid. “... He’s no longer cooperating with us,” Page said.
A New Jersey man who contacted city officials this fall, claiming he was asked to pay $500 to remove a curse, declined to pursue the case, according to the report.
“Both of those (cases) are closed ... not that they couldn’t be reopened, but they are closed,” Page told the board.
Attorney Bill Quinn, who represented Fatima’s at the meeting, said his client is willing to try to resolve the complaint by the New York man if he can be found. He said another attorney handling the civil complaint has tried unsuccessfully to reach him.
At an earlier hearing, Quinn noted that Fatima’s has operated in the city for more than two decades with few complaints.
Police said there have been no complaints since the fortunetellers appeared before the board in October.
The board renewed Fatima’s license over the strong objections of City Councilor-at-large Bill Legault.
“This is not a new issue with this particular business,” Legault said. “... We need to send a strong message. We cannot tolerate (vulnerable customers) being taken advantage of in any way at any time.”
Fatima’s did not seek a license for a third fortuneteller, the woman named in both allegations.
The studio remains on probation through the end of the year from an earlier board action.
Tom Dalton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.