The world of spiritualism and psychic abilities is a difficult one. There are people who genuinely have a deeper understanding and a higher connection to the spiritual world. There are so many people who have been helped by those with such abilities. But it all starts to go wrong when it comes to the scam—very wrong!
Unfortunately, many of us who seek psychic help are in a vulnerable situation a perhaps we have lost someone we love, have had our hearts broken, or our careers are going in the wrong direction. Whatever the cause, we seek solace in the unknown in the hope of finding answers.
Scammers or con artists are masters at spotting this vulnerability and using it to their advantage. This tarnishes the reputation of those psychics who aren’t looking to make a quick buck.
The problem gets worse when you consider the advancements of technology. Though getting better, we are generally not conscious enough about what we post and share online. For a hair-raising example, you can watch Dave the Clairvoyant to see how scammers are able to access our personal information to “verify” their abilities. Dave, however, used this video to warn people of the dangers of the internet. We have heard of too many scams where psychics are able to email people with their address. A vulnerable person sees this as a sign of their talent, whereas they could just be using an IP address hacker.
On the other hand, the internet is providing us with a tool to check psychics and the reviews of others. It is not so easy for these people to get away with conning the innocent out of anything from $50 to $50,000 or more.
We have put together some of the biggest psychic scammers who have not been able to get away with it. Plus, we will talk about one man who has no dedicated his life to putting a stop to it.
The order of these scams does not reflect on the severity of them. Just because a case doesn’t involve millions doesn’t mean it isn’t important.
Ann Thompson was working out of a second story building in New York as a fortune-teller who could also vanquish evil spirits and curses. Rom just 2 out of town victims, Psychic Zoe was able to swindle $800,000 over a 5-year period. One person handed over $72,000 and the other was conned out of $740,000.
Apparently, the psychic needed certain items that would allow her to perform the necessary rituals. One of these items was a 9.2-carat diamond ring. She was arrested in April 2018 for grand larceny.
Tracey Milanovich managed to steal a total of $70,000 from just one person. What started off as a palm reading ended in the woman being told that her daughter was possessed. What parent is going to do anything possible to protect their child? In order for Milanovich to rid the devil from her daughter, the woman handed over numerous household items as well as large amounts of cash.
It took the police less than 2 months to charge Tracey Milanovich with obtaining property by trick, larceny, and witness intimidation. The police are still asking for other people to come forward. If Milanovich pulled the same scam with others, it’s difficult to imagine how much the total could be.
A young Brazilian student living in Texas lost her mum and fell into depression. Sherry Tina Uwanawich met the young student and convinced her that a curse had been placed on her. It was her “God-given powers” that would ward of the curse. She would, however, need money to buy crystals and candles to lift the curse. This escalated and the woman ended up handing over gift cards, clothing, a leased car, borrowed money, and even her student loans.
The total amount of money scammed was $1.6 million. Despite admitting that there was no curse, no money was ever returned. Uwanawich was sentenced to 3 years and 4 months in prison.
During the 90s we saw quite a few psychics hitting the TV. Miss Cleo was a Jamaican lady (or at least had a Jamaican accent) and offered fortune-telling tarot card spreads. Her TV ad included her answering the phones and telling people things that they would never see by themselves. The advert clearly stated that it was for entertainment only, yet millions phoned in for their “free reading”.
The 800 number certainly wasn’t free, and some callers received bills for as much as $300 for their call. Miss Cleo, along with everyone else who answered the phones, were actresses. The longer they kept a person on the phone, the more they earnt. The Psychic Readers Network, owned by Steven Feder and Peter Stotz, was shut down in 2002. In total, they had millions of victims for approximately $1 billion. They agreed to forgive $500 million in phone charges and on top of that, pay $5 million to the Federal Trade Commission.
It seems to be a popular scam, praying on those who are suffering, telling them they have a curse on them and needing money to remove that curse. Rose Marks welcomed victims into her store. Convincing her clients that money was the root of evil, the only way to remove the curse would be to transfer their wealth into her name and she would return it once the curse was removed.
Apparently, Marks was continuing with the traditions of her gypsy heritage. The total amount reached around $40 million, millions coming from the best-selling author, Jude Deveraux. The Rose Marks case was one of the first successful federal psychic fraud prosecutions in U.S. history. Rose Marks was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2014.
Ralph Raines was the heir to The Raines Tree Farm, a bachelor who lived with his father on the 1,200-acre farm, also a multi-million-dollar business. His only interest was the paranormal. He had seen the TV ads of Racheal Lee, the 57-year-old world-famous psychic and visited the storefront. Raines admitted that all he wanted was to be married and to have a family. This was enough for Racheal Lee so begin her ten-year scam that would eventually lead to her gaining control of his wealth.
Lee was able to convince Raines into buying a $915,000 investment property, which she moved into with her children. Lee gained significant control over Raines and the family fortune. But it didn’t stop there, Lee also set up a coincidental meeting between Raines and her daughter, knowing that the only thing he wanted was a wife and children.
Rachel Lee gained power of attorney, selling off much of the property, overpaying herself and writing large checks for her family members. A police detective became concerned when luxury cars were parked outside the tree farm, an unusual sight for a small farming community. What started as $15 million of wealth had become just $200,000. Racheal Lee was sentenced to 108 months in federal prison, her daughter 33 months.
Priscilla Kelly Delmaro was part of a fortune-telling family, so while this case focuses on just one person, it is difficult to comprehend the extent of the family’s scam. Priscilla’s biggest scam involved one man who was rejected by the woman he loved. Visiting Priscilla’s psychic shop, she told him that there was negative energy around him that had to be cleansed. The first session would cost $2,500, the second $9,000. Then, a further $56,000 would be needed to rid a spirit who was interfering with the possible relationship. But this wasn’t enough, and Priscilla convinced him there would have to be a funeral for the spirit- costing $40,000.
The scam continues with a $30,000 Rolex to use as a time machine to cleanse his past, another $90,000 for a bridge to encourage the spirit to cross to the other side, and so on. In total, the scam cost the man $550,000. Priscilla spent 8 months in jail.
As mentioned before, for a psychic fraud case to be seen as big, it doesn’t have to be hundreds of thousands from one victim. When you ask enough people for $40, the millions start to roll in, as is the case of the Maris Duval Psychic Scam, one of the most successful mail scams of all times.
Maria Carolina Gamba was born in Italy but moved to France. Her travels around Europe allowed her reputation to expand. During the 70s and 80s, Maria Carolina Gamba rose to fame as Maria Duval the psychic. In the mid-1990s, she sold the rights to the Maria Duval name Infogest Direct Marketing.
The scam was simple. It prayed on the elderly and the sick. Letters were sent by the millions to people offering Maria Duval’s psychic help to improve their lives, specifically health and finances. They were incredibly authentic, they appeared to be handwritten and signed by Duval. Infogest bought personal information from marketing databases so that the letters had just enough personal info to appear from a psychic. Once the initial fee was paid, the scammers were able to go on for years, offering other types of help by selling crystals and talismans.
Between 2006 and 2017, 56 million letters from Maria Duval were sent to U.S. citizens. Over two decades, it is estimated that 1.4 million Americans fell victim to the scam. More than $200 million was swindled in the U.S. and Canada. Shell companies were operating across Europe and Interpol is still trying to locate people in Europe who continue sending Maria Duval letters. Associated shell companies are Astroforce and Destiny Research Center Ltd in Hong Kong.
Government agencies across the globe have and still are working to shut down this scam. Infogest was down in 2016 by the U.S government. Charges were filed against three key people. Maria Thanos and Philip Lett were looking at fines of up to $250,000 each and 20 years in prison for their role as day-to-day managers. Patrice Runner, the boss, was arrested and charged with 18 counts of mail and wire fraud and conspiracy to commit mail fraud. He could face up to 20 years in prison for each count.
Gamba continued to promote the Maria Duval name even throughout the scam, she also continued to receive payments. Her family claim she had nothing to do with writing the letters. During the investigation it was revealed that she was suffering from dementia, so she could neither be questioned, not arrested. If you ever want to learn more about the Maria Duval Scam, two award winning investigative journalists from CNN name Blake Ellis and Melanie Hicken wrote a very good book detailing their investigations into Maria Duval. The book is called “A deal with the Devil” and you can buy it on Amazon
This is a perfect example of a grey area when it comes to the law. Different countries and even states will have different laws but take New York for example, “professing to tell the future is a class B misdemeanor. Any fortune-teller could be fined up to $500 and 3 months in jail. But fortune-tellers are often left unpunished, so it’s easy for them to get away with fraud.
Bob Nygaard is a retired New York cop. He moved to Florida to get away from the crimes he battled in New York and became a private investigator. His first psychic case turned out to be Gina Marie Marks. Marks was a famous psychic in southern Florida and had co-author of the book- Miami Psychic: Confessions of a Confidante. Thanks to Nygaard’s investigation, Gina Marks was charged with grand theft and sentenced to 24 months in prison and pay restitution for bilking over $500,000.
Since then, Bob Nygaard has made it his mission to change the way the US justice system punishes fortune-teller fraud. “It’s not a crime to be gullible. But it is a crime to steal from gullible people” Bob said. To date, Bob has worked on 12 cases and recovered more than $3 million for 21 psychic fraud victims. Some of his most notorious cases aside from Gina Marks included Priscilla Kelly Delmaro, Sherry Tina Uwanawich, and Psychic Zoe (Ann Thompson).