Real Name: Elena Souza
Aliases: Yessica Menendez
Wanted For: Fraud
Missing Since: 1996
Details: In March of 1996, in Modesto, California, Gregorio Scoto and his wife, Eduarda, both originally from Portugal, were hoping to find a cure for the painful migraines Eduarda suffered daily. Modern medicine had not helped at all. In desperation, the Scotos turned to Elena Souza, a woman they had heard about in a radio ad. She spoke Portuguese and claimed to be a faith healer. But according to police, Elena Souza is, in reality, a masterful magician and con artist without peer. Elena Souza diagnosed the cause of Eduarda's headaches very quickly, telling the Scotos they had been cursed. Elena claimed that to lift the curse, she would have to cleanse the Scoto's money: $15,000 for each family member. The grand total was $90,000. When the Scotos said they didn't have that kind of money, Elena assured them that they would get it, even promising to lend it to them if necessary. She also assured them that nothing would happen to the money and that they would take it with them. The couple's son, Eddie, voiced his concerns, but the Scotos were completely under Elena's spell. They believed it was a matter of life and death. When they brought the cash to Elena, their children came with them. Elena promised the money would never leave the Scoto's possession. She wrapped the cash in Gregorio's shirt and told them to take it home overnight. The next day, the Scotos took the money back to Elena. She had them place the bills in a cloth bag and then sewed it shut, while beginning another prayer. As she prayed, Elena walked behind the couple tapping them on the back with the bag. The Scotos then watched as Elena put the bag in a metal box, locked it, then put a chain around it and padlocked that. Elena promised she would unlock the box in two days, at which time the money would be clean, the curse gone. She instructed Eduarda to take the box home and place it in her closet. But two days later, Elena was nowhere to be found. The Scotos, fearing the worst, called police. When the police opened the box there was an identical bag to the one that had the money in it. But inside it was filled with several $1 bills which wrapped stacks of newspaper. The Scotos' money was gone. Elena Souza has been charged with grand theft. According to police, she did not work alone. One alleged accomplice, a man named Jose, apparently rented the apartment and placed ads offering Souza's services. A young woman called Maria reportedly helped prepare the sleight of hand tricks and allegedly was a crucial part of the money bag switch.
Extra Notes: The case was featured as a part of the January 3, 1997 episode. Other phony healers and fortune tellers profiled on Unsolved Mysteries include Jorge Cortez, Gary Magno, and Ann Corecelli.