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Couple Who Told Fortunes Face Prison

September 05, 2002|From Times Staff Reports

A self-described psychic and her husband admitted in federal court Wednesday that they concealed more than $850,000 in income earned over a five-year period while operating a fortune-telling business in Manhattan Beach.

Pleading guilty to charges of conspiring to defraud the Internal Revenue Service, Sonia Merino, 50, and her husband, Steve, 44, each face possible sentences of 18 to 24 months in prison under terms of a plea agreement with prosecutors.

They also will be required to pay more than $316,000 in restitution to the IRS. The couple were named earlier this year in a 12-count indictment that accused Sonia Merino of also bilking clients.

Those other charges are expected to be dropped when the Merinos are sentenced Nov. 18, but the couple must make $60,000 restitution to those victims.

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