A private investigator is brought in by a fraud victim to put the squeeze on a pair of con artists.
A Tarzana psychic and her husband are facing criminal charges for allegedly bilking an emotionally vulnerable San Fernando Valley man out of close to $1 million during the course of a two-year-long scam.
April Lee, 28, and Michael Johnson, 32, are due back in court in San Jose Dec. 19 to answer to charges of grand theft, attempted grand theft and extortion after they were arrested during a sting operation last month in Northern California, according to court filings.
According to investigators, Lee was operating under the alias Michelle Morgan when she first met the victim, Bryan James, 25, in the fall of 2011. Suffering from career and health woes, he went to Lee’s psychic business on Etiwanda Avenue at Ventura Boulevard for a reading.
Lee allegedly homed in on the man’s romantic issues and told him the reason he couldn’t be with the person he was interested in was a love curse had been placed on him. Given time – and money – she could break the curse.
Lee allegedly began texting James from her own cellphone, purporting to be the man’s love interest. Lee said the two would-be lovers couldn’t speak directly because of the curse, so they had to go through her.
Over two years the victim paid the couple over $900,000 by borrowing from family. He was particularly vulnerable and Lee and Johnson callously exploited that. When victim realized he was being scammed, he attempted to report the crime to police. According to the victim, the office mocked him for being gullible for giving his money to a psychic. The investigation, they said, would take a very long time and they were not willing to set up a sting. The victim then sought help from a private investigator, Bob Nygaard, who specializes in nabbing psychics.
Nygaard provided Doubtful News with additional information about the case and what happened next:
Based upon the fact that the LAPD refused to conduct an undercover sting operation and based upon the extended time frame that the LAPD detectives were giving the victim for doing their jobs, enforcing the law, and bringing these alleged con artists to justice, Private Investigator Bob Nygaard reached out to some extremely dedicated, highly experienced, and empathetic law-enforcement contacts who he has in the Santa Clara District Attorney’s Office. They readily agreed to help. Since the crime was ongoing in that the perpetrators were still attempting to defraud the victim of an additional $511,000, a plan was devised to have the victim and the perpetrators respond to San Jose, Ca. to pick up the $511,000 that Lee claimed she needed to completely “remove the curse.” The alleged con artists, Lee and Johnson, were led to believe that the victim would be receiving the $511,000 in cash from the proceeds of the sale of an alleged home. An undercover “sting operation” was subsequently conducted and on November 13, 2013, April Lee and Michael Teddy Johnson were placed under arrest in San Jose, Ca. The alleged con-artist couple are charged with Grand Theft and were held in the Santa Clara County jail on ONE MILLION dollars bail ($500,000 each).
So, the Los Angeles police were not too keen on working this case, suggesting that a civil suit be filed. No, this is a crime and should have been pursued. If you don’t make an example out of these con artists, they will keep conning.