Posing as a psychic: a Canadian cheated Americans for $ 180 million
The US Department of Justice extradited a Canadian citizen from Spain and charged him with defrauding more than one million Americans worth nearly $ 200 million in international mail fraud. His scheme has been in operation for almost 20 years. Writes about it Daily Mail.
Patrice Runner, 54, appeared in federal court for the first time in Seentral Islip, New York on December 22, after being taken into US custody by the Spanish government on December 21.
The Justice Department indicted Ranny on 18 counts, including mail and telegraph fraud, conspiracy to commit mail and email fraud, and conspiracy to launder money.
Using a multi-year mail fraud scheme from 1994 to November 2014, he defrauded more than $ 180 million of victims in the United States.
According to prosecutors, Rannen's alleged scheme consisted of sending letters to millions of US citizens, many of whom were vulnerable, elderly or sick, allegedly from two famous French psychics, including Marie Duval.
In letters using the names and images of Duval and another French psychic named Patrick Guerin, recipients were promised that their mentorship and talismans could help change lives.
In the letters, the psychic also promised to help the recipient achieve great wealth, happiness and overcome illness in exchange for monetary rewards.
"The letters also often said that the psychic saw something personal in each recipient of the letter, although in fact the scheme was sending almost identical letters to tens of thousands of victims every week," the prosecutor's office said.
The runner and his accomplices allegedly obtained the names of vulnerable and elderly people by buying mailing lists and exchanging them with other mail fraud schemes.
When the victim responded to one of the messages, Runner and his accomplices peppered her with dozens of additional letters, while some received even 60.
Each of the additional letters was reportedly also a personalized written message, some of which appeared to be handwritten and required additional payment from the victim.
The addressee had to pay between $ 5 and $ 50 to purchase various supposedly “unique and supernatural items,” which were actually cheap mass-produced trinkets.
In addition, the victims were forced to pay in order to receive “personalized astrological services”. Prosecutors argue that neither Duvall nor Guerin was involved in sending the letters, received no responses from the victims, and did not send additional letters after the victims paid the money.
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Hundreds of thousands of people have suffered in Canada as well. According to prosecutors, 1,4 million people fell victim to this scheme, while Ranner and his accomplices fraudulently obtained more than $ 200 million.
“Fraudsters used the mail to constantly target vulnerable Americans,” said Inspector General Damon Wood of the Philadelphia branch of the US Postal Inspection Service. "If you use Americans, we follow you wherever you are."
Runner's two accomplices, Canadian citizens Maria Thanos and Philip Lett, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to conspire to commit mail fraud in June 2018 in the Eastern District of New York.
The runner used a series of shell companies to hide his involvement in the scheme. He has lived in several foreign countries, including Switzerland, France, the Netherlands, Costa Rica, Spain.
The documents say that the money received through this scheme was transferred to bank accounts controlled by Ranner and his associates in countries such as Switzerland and Liechtenstein.
Ranner was charged in October 2018 and was arrested in Ibiza the following April, then transferred to a prison in Madrid.
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The defendant's lawyer said Ranner "disputes the legality of any criminal charge that may be brought against him by any authority."
Ranner faces up to 20 years in prison on each of 18 counts, as well as millions of fines. Thanos and Lettu - up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $ 250. They have not yet been sentenced.
Last year, US Postal Inspection investigators said they were able to recover more than $ 200 in cash and money orders sent by nearly 000 victims.
In addition to pending checks and suspended payments, the investigation saved about $ 827 for the victims.
Most of the victims never received any money back.
“The Department of Justice's Consumer Protection Division investigates and prosecutes transnational criminal schemes targeting elderly and vulnerable Americans,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clarke said in a press release.
“As this case shows, we will work with our law enforcement partners in the United States and around the world to prosecute criminals who target Americans through mail fraud and other schemes. We thank the Spanish National Police for their efforts to apprehend Ranner and ensure that he is judged fairly in the US, ”Clark said.
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