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While it’s not known what the psychic told the politician in Battle Creek, it’s clear the psychic didn’t foretell Ervin Brinker’s future.

If she had, the 68-year-old Calhoun County health official would have known he was going lose his job and be charged with three 10-year felonies.

Last week, Attorney General Bill Schuette announced that Brinker, the former CEO of Summit Pointe in Battle Creek, a community mental health center, allegedly sent $510,000 in Medicaid funds to a psychic palm reader in Key West, Florida, for “health consulting” services. Brinker has been charged with two counts of Medicaid fraud conspiracy and one count of embezzlement by a public officer. The more than half million dollars in taxpayer funds were allegedly paid out over a 17-month period from May 2011 to November 2012.

Following Brinker’s arraignment last week in a Lansing District court, the predictable snickering over the legitimacy of clairvoyants took off on social media.

Because there is little licensing or regulation of the business of peddling spiritual truths (in most states the practice is deemed legal for entertainment purposes only), weeding out reputable psychic mediums from frauds with crystal balls can be tricky.

Julia Mary Cox, a psychic medium in Royal Oak, says she would welcome government oversight if only to lend credibility to her services.

“This should be treated like a business just like any other business,” Cox says. “There should be background checks on psychics, education and training. There are just too many people doing this under false pretenses and giving honest people a bad name.”

A genuine psychic, Cox says, should not require payment up front. “Think about it. The only business where you pay first is McDonald’s. You don’t even get a haircut paying first. If you don’t like my reading, you shouldn’t have to pay for it.”

A genuine psychic also doesn’t predict the future. “If you go to a psychic who says they can predict the future, you should say: ‘Well, OK, when this happens, I’ll come back and then I’ll pay you,” Cox says. “Fortune-telling predictions imply we have no free will.”

Nor does a real psychic believe in ghosts: “Souls are not connected to buildings,” Cox says. “They are connected to people.”

A real psychic also does not deal in curses. “I had two clients in their 20s who told me they had gone to a psychic who said in order to remove a curse, they had to buy men’s clothing in size 40. So, they went to Sears and bought all these pants. I swear the psychic’s husband was a size 40.”

A real psychic does not entice people to return to them. “I’m not a counselor. I don’t want to get into a dependent relationship,” Cox said. “I’m most successful if my clients do not come back to see me. From my readings, I hope I’ve given them the tools to connect to their loved ones on their own.”

Conversely, a real psychic, says Cox, “Should restore your faith and hope. During a reading, I provide validation that their loved ones who have passed on are here and I pass on guidance from them. I am not here to prove to you that there is an afterlife. That’s for you to decide. I’m just here to deliver whatever messages your angels have to say to you.”

Cox sees clients in a small office she rents from the Center for Natural Healing on Washington Avenue in Royal Oak. Cox graduated from the University of Detroit Mercy with a degree in English and minors in religion and philosophy. She says her ability to do spiritual readings is a “gift.”

“When I was young, I could see color around people’s heads,” she said. “I thought everybody could see them.” She charges $110 for a 45-minute session.

In 2009, the Religion and Public Life arm of the Pew Research Center found that roughly one in six Americans had used a fortuneteller or psychic.

Rosalynn Moten, Ph.D., and a clinical forensic psychologist in Clinton Township, says she first had a reading with Cox six years ago.

Describing her as “phenomenal talent,” Moten says she wanted to be spiritually connected to family members who had passed on. When her deceased father came through in the reading, “I felt a sense of support and validation that has helped me move forward in the grieving process.”

In her reading with Cox, Judy Metzger of Farmington Hills says both her grandparents came through.

But what really floored Metzger was when Cox brought up the name of her childhood dogs. “That was huge for me because I suppose someone could search on the Internet for birthdays or ancestors’ names, but no one in the world would have ever known about my dogs ‘Whiskey’ and ‘Monet.’ ”

Rod Arquette, a plumber and electrician from Port Huron, was a nonbeliever up until he had his first reading with Cox last month.

“It was a real life-changer,” Arquette says. “She helped me get in touch with my father, my grandfather and my uncle. Even if you went online, you would not be able to know my father’s history in the Korean War or that he loved to fish, or that I love to bow hunt for elk in Idaho.”

Arquette said Cox also named 12 people in his life and “she never missed one of them.”

“She said my father said he was proud of me for being a mother and a father to my daughter, since her mother is not part of her life. There is no way she could have found that out in advance. Truly it was one of the most wonderful experiences of my life.”

Given the harm that unscrupulous fortune tellers can inflict on the vulnerable, Cox advises: “Use common sense. Don’t look at us as a be-all, end-all. We can make mistakes, just like anybody else.”

What kind of mistakes?

“One time I had a woman come to me and I kept on getting the words ‘pole’ and ‘dance.’ So I thought she was a stripper. Turns out she taught Polish dance classes.”

mkeenan@detroitnews.com

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