'Miss Cleo' dies in South Florida at 53
TV psychic dies in Palm Beach County of complications with cancer
PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. – Youree Harris, the self-proclaimed psychic who was the face of nationwide infomercials as Miss Cleo, died Tuesday of complications with cancer. She was 53.
William J. Cone, Harris' attorney, said in a statement that she died in Palm Beach County, while surrounded by family and close friends.
Harris also called herself Ree Perris, Youree Cleomili, Youree Dell Harris, Youree Perris and Rae Dell Harris. Her Psychic Readers Network character Miss Cleo had a Jamaican accent. But she wasn't from Jamaica.
"The cards never lie," was the hotline advisor's catch phrase. But many thought she did.
As a Los Angeles-born actress in Seattle, she left behind a trail of deception in the late 90s, according to alleged fraud victims who talked to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. She allegedly told some of her colleagues that she suffered from bone cancer and sickle cell anemia, an inherited blood disorder.
At the height of her fame, Harris was the subject of a "deceptive advertising, billing and collection practices" federal civil case filed against Florida-based Access Resource Services, the parent company of the Psychic Readers Network. The company paid a $5 million fine.
Prosecutors took a hold of her birth certificate to show Harris was born in Los Angeles and not the Caribbean, as she claimed as Miss Cleo. She would later tell Vice that she juggled both the Jamaican patois accent and a "little valley girl" accent.
When she could no longer be the face of the TV business, she told the New Times in 2007 that she was charging for one-on-one consultations as a spiritual adviser, she was an author and a poet, and she also performed "energy cleansings" and "house cleanings" as an "Obeah" woman.
"I'm not a psychic," Harris said during the interview. "I am a mambo, a Haitian high priestess -- that's what I was trained to do. Being a psychic that was not my idea. That was a package that was put together. And it wasn't me."
Some of her South Florida followers said she lived in Miami Beach and later in Southwest Ranches. About a decade ago, she told a reporter with The Advocate that she was a shaman, a lesbian, and the mother of two daughters. And she also said she had only made about $450,000 during her years as Miss Cleo.
"My family had to deal with the lies and the garbage and the misrepresentations," Harris said during the 2006 interview about the end of her relationship with the Psychic Readers Network. "People really believed that I owned the company. I'm said to have gazillions of dollars. I wish people would tell me where it is."
Harris' voice lives on as Auntie Poulet, also known as voodo witch Madame Haitian, a character on the 2002 "Grand Theft Auto: Vice City" video game. And her story was featured in the 2014 "Hotline," a documentary about the telephone hotlines phenomena.
"I don't know who, but I'm certain that I helped some people," Harris said during an interview for the documentary.
Copyright 2016 by WPLG Local10.com - All rights reserved.