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'Psychic surgeon' a heel, not a healer, police say

He calls himself one of the world's "top psychic surgeons" and was even included in actor Shirley MacLaine's self-help book on inner transformation.

Yesterday, Toronto police called Alex Orbito, 65, "a fake" and announced he has been charged with fraud over $5,000 and possession of the proceeds of crime.

"Our concern is that he is a fake and he is taking money away from people who are suffering from serious illnesses like cancer," Detective Doug Dunstan said.

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According to police, Mr. Orbito set up in a room at a Best Western Hotel in east-end Toronto on Saturday and charged his "patients" $135 a pop for one of his two-minute spiritual healing sessions.

During the sessions, Mr. Orbito appeared to open patients' abdomens and pull out diseased tumours and "negativities" in the form of blood clots. After these "psychic surgeries," patients found only a few drops of blood on an unscarred body.

Mr. Orbito also held magnetic-healing sessions in which he would have the patients lie down on the floor and offer healing touches to afflicted parts of the body.

In three days, 600 people underwent "treatment" -- allegedly raising more than $80,000, police say.

Police say the bloody tissue he is said to have pulled from desperate patients' abdomens were chicken parts. "Liver and similar type parts," Det. Dunstan said.

Also charged is John Robert Wood, a 62-year-old man from Pickering, Ont., who, police say, is suspected of organizing the "healing sessions."

Mr. Wood is accused of being an accomplice by setting up the customers and taking their money.

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Mr. Orbito is not a Canadian citizen and speaks only limited English, Det. Dunstan said. He was released on bail yesterday.

The "psychic surgeon" became famous among the metaphysical set during the late 1980s when New Age author Ms. MacLaine included him in her book Going Within: A Guide for Inner Transformation.

He is also a well-known faith healer in the Philippines, said Hermie Garcia, editor of the Philippine Reporter newspaper in Toronto.

Like Mr. Orbito, many psychic surgeons and healers hail from that part of the world.

Mr. Garcia says he witnessed one of Mr. Orbito's surgeries while working as a reporter in Manila in 1981.

"I couldn't believe my eyes," he said. Mr. Orbito appeared to lift skin like paper and part flesh with his fingers.

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"His clients were mostly non-Filipino who lined up around the hotel room," Mr. Garcia said.

In the Philippines, Mr. Orbito is hailed for his abilities to bring in tourists seeking psychic surgery.

"Orbito has gone to 67 countries since his first outing in 1974. He travels out of the country four times a year in a prophetic move to entice foreigners to visit the Philippines," states a November, 2004, story in the Manila Bulletin, an English-language newspaper.

Mr. Orbito also founded the "Pyramid of Asia," built in November of 2000.

It's a healing centre in the Philippines made of timber and stone.

According to the Manila Times, an English-language newspaper, the pyramid, which is more than 200 metres high, is claimed to have so much psychic energy that visitors can suffer a cardiac arrest if they stay in it for more than 20 minutes.

It recently underwent repair due to termite infestation.

Skeptics and psychic-myth debunkers have long relegated surgeries like the kind Mr. Orbito performs to the dustbin of fraudulent activity.

They say these "healers" stage the illusion by hiding animal organs and a balloon filled with fake blood in their hands.

Mr. Orbito's appearance in Canada was not highly publicized, Det. Dunstan said.

Patients got wind of his presence through word of mouth.

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