Woman Pleads No Contest in Psychic Calls Case

An Antelope Valley woman accused of running up $120,000 in calls made to psychic hotlines on Los Angeles County phone lines pleaded no contest Thursday to a charge of grand theft.

Cheryl Burnham, 39, who is scheduled to be sentenced July 16, faces 30 days in jail and will be ordered to reimburse the county for the calls, said Deputy Dist. Atty. Rob Dver, who handled the case.

Burnham, an employee of the county Mental Health Department, was accused of making 2,500 calls to various psychic hotlines between June 1997 and November 1998. The calls were discovered during a routine audit of the phone system and traced to Burnham's work area in McClaren Hall, a children's crisis center in El Monte.

Burnham allegedly circumvented the call blocking system designed to prevent unauthorized use of phone lines by using unrestricted computer modem lines. As a result of the case, modem lines are now closely monitored.

Attorneys and county officials involved in the case said it was the first of its kind in memory.

"It's not like stealing $100,000 worth of legal pads," Dver said. "What did she gain from this? She gained $120,000 worth of psychic knowledge."

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