- Psychic predictions can be entertaining, but some “psychics” are accused of taking advantage of vulnerable people for cash.
- One psychic was accused of pretending to be a client’s ex-boyfriend to “predict” when he would call.
- The so-called Maria Duval letters scammed people in North America out of $200 million over several decades.
- Another psychic allegedly told one brokenhearted woman that she had to buy her a 9.2-carat diamond ring if she ever wanted to find love again.
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According to market research company IBISWorld, psychic services are a $2 billion industry in the US.
Astrology, palm reading, Tarot cards, and mediums can be harmless when they offer insights for entertainment purposes only. But the practice can have a sinister side when so-called psychics are accused of taking advantage of vulnerable people.
Here are five scandals and scams involving psychics that made the news.
A self-described psychic eventually pled guilty to five counts of theft after clients paid over $340,000 for her services
Gina Marie Marks, who went by the name Natalie Miller, was accused of employing a number of strategies to convince people to pay her for psychic guidance, according to The Washington Post. When one woman came to see her after a painful breakup, she allegedly “predicted” when her client’s ex-boyfriend would call then used phone spoofing to make it look like he was calling when it was really the psychic herself. She was also accused of requesting thousands of dollars in cash and designer handbags from clients to place on an altar, which she never returned.
Marks pled guilty to five counts of theft and was sentenced to six years in prison. She was also ordered to pay back the over $340,000 she had collected over two years.
The Maria Duval letters brought in $200 million from the US and Canada, but Duval herself says she had nothing to do with them
From the 1980s up until 2014 when the US government shut the operation down, letters from a psychic named Maria Duval reached millions of people around the world, promising to solve all of their problems in exchange for cash. Recipients, many of them seniors, sent an average of $40 every time they received one, according to CNN, adding up to $200 million paid from the US and Canada alone.
Duval’s son said that his mother was known locally as a psychic and that she had sold the rights to her name in a bad business deal. Her name was then used by shell companies to spam millions with junk mail. According to CNN, Duval did not profit from the letters. Police raided her home in France but found no unusual amounts of cash in her safe or bank accounts. Duval also appeared to have little understanding of the scams carried out in her name due to a worsening case of dementia.
As of July 2018, a criminal investigation was still ongoing.
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‘Psychic Zoe’ was arrested in 2018 in New York City and charged with felony grand larceny after allegedly scamming victims out of over $800,000
What began as $5 psychic readings with a woman calling herself “Psychic Zoe” in New York City morphed into an alleged scam that lasted years and drained victims of over $800,000, according to The Guardian.
“Psychic Zoe,” whose real name is Ann Thompson, was accused of telling one brokenhearted woman that she had to buy her a 9.2-carat diamond ring if she ever wanted to find love again. Thompson was also accused of convincing victims to spend tens of thousands of dollars on gold coins for healing rituals.
Thompson was later re-arrested on charges related to 10 additional victims. She has pled not guilty and at the time of this article, the case is ongoing.
A Florida psychic who has been convicted of defrauding victims twice before is being charged with felony theft again
The Palm Beach Post reported that Bridgette Doreen Evans has been charged with fraud for a third time after being accused of scamming a woman in Boca Raton out of $180,000 and another Houston victim of $220,000. Evans was previously sentenced to 37 months in prison for fraud in 2011 and five years of probation after taking a plea deal for fraud in 2000.
Evans allegedly told victims that their money and valuables contained evil spirits that she could vanquish if they were in her possession, only to ask for more money.
A self-described psychic was accused of draining a 64-year-old woman’s life savings and charged with third-degree grand larceny
A 64-year-old woman from Bedford, New York, told police that she paid psychic Janet Lee $11,600 for “spiritual work” to remove a “dark force” from her life that Lee said was preventing her from making her dreams come true, according to Greenwich Time.
Lee was arrested in 2018 and charged with third-degree grand larceny. She had run into trouble with the law before, having been arrested earlier that year and charged with scheming to defraud. She was also indicted in 2017 on charges of identity theft, forgery and criminal possession of a forged instrument.
Nygaard told News 12 Westchester that four other alleged victims have approached him about money they lost paying Lee for psychic services.
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