Psychic mail fraud scheme busted by U.S. feds

The US Justice Department has brought the hammer down on a psychic fraud scheme that solicits customers via mail that looks personalized targeting elderly and and economically vulnerable people promising wealth.

WASHINGTON: Did these mail-order ‘psychics’ see the Justice Department coming? | Suits & Sentences | McClatchy DC.

The Justice Department on Thursday filed civil complaints against companies and individuals that allegedly scammed senior citizens and others eager for a psychic’s assistance.

Filed by U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Loretta Lynch, the Obama administration’s new nominee to serve as attorney general, the civil complaints allege quite a scheme.

“Relying on superstition and fear, the defendants defrauded tens of millions of dollars from thousands of vulnerable citizens,” Lynch said in a statement.

The letter to the potential customer of the psychic reading informed the addressee that they are contacting the recipient based on a specific vision or psychic reading revealing the recipient. They are promised the opportunity to dramatically improve their financial situations, possibly winning the lottery. The letters are personalized and contain what looks like handwritten portions. The recipients were encouraged to buy products that would ensure good fortune.

We’ve all seen these gimmick mass mailings for a sale, contest or a business scheme. It’s shrewd, sneaky, and it works on those who are not well-versed in the typical ploys that are so easily faked via computer graphics these days. People assume that the claims are legit because it feels so personal and who would resort to such a scam? (Personal incredulity)

The Justice Department is asking for the businesses to be immediately shut down as part of the Anti-Fraud Injunction Statute.

According to the complaints, the defendants operate two mail fraud schemes in which they send solicitation letters purportedly written by world-renowned psychics to consumers through the U.S. mail. The first scheme, operated by Destiny Research Center and the Canadian company Infogest Direct Marketing, sends direct mail solicitations allegedly written by psychics Maria Duval and Patrick Guerin. The second scheme, operated by Christine Moussu through New York companies CLGE Inc. and I.D. Marketing Solutions Inc., sends direct mail solicitations allegedly written by psychics David Phild, Sandra Rochefort, Antonia Donera and Nicholas Chakan.

Evidence presented by the United States in support of its motion indicates that victims of the mail fraud schemes were elderly, ill and in perilous financial condition.

The sad part is that people believe psychics are real, they buy into emotional gimmicks that promise them what they deeply seek. Even though one fraudster is brought down, many continue to operate on the non-skeptical. Education is a key against fraud.

  6 comments for “Psychic mail fraud scheme busted by U.S. feds

  1. November 20, 2014 at 12:18 PM

    “But what HARM does it doooooo???”

    I often debate on a site popular with psychics. Nearly every polite, civil skeptical comment I make, like “But there’s no evidence to support this; see this link to a study… Also, this is known to harm people; see these news stories…,” receives a flood of hatred and character assassination: “You’re a terrible, terrible person. Why do you want to take away a source of comfort? Just because you’re a cynic who doesn’t believe in anything, why are you forcing your beliefs on others? etc. etc.” The professionals are especially bullying and vicious.

    I do my best to present as a kind, caring, polite person, which makes for quite the dramatic contrast. I’m struck by the absolute lack of any sense of responsibility to a) truth, and b) the larger social good. The selfishness is astounding.

    I’m certainly not saying they’re all like that, but anyone who stereotypes New Agers as “sweet and caring” and skeptics as “selfish and mean” are dreaming.

    Does it do any good? I don’t have the slightest idea. Wish I knew.

  2. Carol
    November 20, 2014 at 3:59 PM

    I’m glad they are cracking down on these scams. My late grandmother was on the “sucker list” for all these types of mailers. She gave her money away to every “prayer rug” and “angel coin” offer that came to her. My parents finally had to get power of attorney and have her mail forwarded to them to keep her from going broke. A lot of older folks, especially if they are suffering from dementia or early Alzheimer’s (as she was), can’t tell the difference between legitimate bills, government mailings, and scam mailings, because the scammers make their mail look official. It’s a damn shame that people prey on the elderly like this. If I believed in Hell, I’d believe there was a special place for them there.

  3. Crystal Highfill
    December 3, 2014 at 1:29 PM

    my Dad has been scammed by psychic mail fraud. I wish he could get his money back that he sent to these crooks.

  4. Max Leszardt
    December 4, 2014 at 8:44 AM

    First of all, I do regret that your website partially copy/past parts of the DOJ release. And forget to mention that all those statements are, at the moment, qualified as “allegations” only. The last line in the release reminds that ” The claims made in the complaints are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability.”.
    Given that companies and even physical persons are named in the release, it is a heavy responsibility to publish them as if they were verified facts. And after the latest information I know about the case, it is very likely that those details have been released too early given what will be further confirmed.

    Now coming to the topic itself, I understand that some people can be confused with those mails and ads, and perhaps can be abused. Nevertheless for at least one of the companies mentioned, I do know that the mails always included a “satisfaction guarantee” clause, with a very clear payback process. All customers who have claimed for have be refunded with no discussion. But quoting examples of a few elderly or ill people having been scammed does not reflect the reality of thousands of satisfied customers. Whatever we all may personaly believe about Sales and Marketing practices today, you need daily to exercise your skepticism and critical mind. Beside a few hundreds (perhaps) people having been scammed by that paper mail method, every day some thousands of people are abused by spams, or by hacking their credit card details…

  5. December 4, 2014 at 9:34 AM

    The DOJ release is public. There is no reason not to publish it. The point of this website it to advise of questionable claims. This is certainly one of them. Guilty or not, the public should be made aware of such scams that certainly DO exist.

  6. Max Leszardt
    December 5, 2014 at 3:34 AM

    I agree with your willingness to alert people on scams or questionable sales methods. Not discussing again the topic, I just had tried to bring some nuances or to relativise.
    And mostly, I pointed out that you had quoted some DOJ release extracts including company and people’s names, without the accompanying warning about the fact that at the moment, those are only allegations.
    Would you had just quoted the allegated facts and methods without names, or limiting to the psychic pseudos, your alert would have had the same meaning and weight.
    Again, I know those details were in the release but what the DOJ can tell (with legal caution), could later be considered as reputation bashing.

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