OCPD believes there may be more victims of the “prayer scams”

OKEECHOBEE — Two women were arrested earlier in December after they allegedly convinced a woman to hand over her money so they could pray over it and then disappeared with it. Ruth Guadalupe Yeffimo Montes, 32, was arrested Dec. 2, and Vannessa Yeffimo Montes was arrested Dec. 3 by Okeechobee City Police Officers Cesar Romero and Savannah Smith. Both women were charged with grand theft and kidnapping, and the bond for each was set at $25,000. The kidnapping charge was due to alleged coercion used to force the victim to go with them.

Ruth Montes

According to the press release issued at the time, the women are accused of approaching a victim at Walmart and convincing her that they needed to pray over her money. The victim then followed the two women to their home, because, according to OCPD Det. James Pickering, the women told her that the Virgin Mary told them to bring her home with them. She was then instructed to pray to a statue of Mary and swear she would not discuss it with anyone or family members would be hurt. The victim then gave the two women money, and they wrapped it in a red cloth, prayed over it and then gave her back the bundle but told her not to open it for 24 hours or the prayer would not be answered. The two women followed the victim to her home and reportedly convinced her to give them $7,000 more, and they prayed over that money too. When it was discovered the money was missing, the victim reported it to law enforcement. She was later able to identify the two women and they were arrested.

Vanessa Montes

A second victim came forth later and had a similar story. He was approached in the parking lot of a local store and was told the gold necklace he was wearing was possessed by demons and for a certain amount of cash, they would get rid of them. They reportedly took the money and the necklace, and the necklace was later found in their vehicle.

Det. Pickering believes there may be more victims out there who have not yet reported the crime. The direct number to his office is 863-763-9785. If the person calling speaks Spanish, they have someone available to translate. He believes the two women were targeting religious, Hispanic people.

Cathy Womble is a staff writer for the Lake Okeechobee News.

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