Mail Fraud Scheme That Targeted Consumers with Psychic Claims Permanently Shut Down
The fraud scheme victimized more than one million Americans who collectively sent the defendants payments totaling more than $180 million
The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York entered a consent decree last week that permanently bars eight individuals and entities from operating an alleged international multi-million dollar mail-fraud scheme in the name of alleged psychics Maria Duval and Patrick Guerin.
In an amended complaint filed in November 2015, the U.S. Department of Justice (USDOJ) alleged that the defendants operated a mail fraud scheme in which they sent letters purporting to be written by psychics Maria Duval and Patrick Guerin to American consumers through the U.S. mail. The letters claimed that the psychics had a specific, personalized vision or psychic reading revealing that the recipient of the letter had the opportunity to achieve great wealth, including claims of winning millions in the lottery.
The solicitations urged the targeted consumers to purchase various products and services in order to ensure that the foreseen good fortune would come to pass.
In reality, the solicitations are all identical, mass produced form letters sent to tens of thousands of recipients throughout the United States every month. Many of the consumers who receive the solicitations are vulnerable victims, including the desperate, elderly and infirm.
According to the USDOJ, the fraud scheme victimized more than one million Americans who collectively sent the defendants payments totaling more than $180 million.
The defendants in this case, all of whom have agreed to settle the case and be bound by a permanent injunction, include: Canadian company 9097-9394 Québec Inc., doing business as Infogest Direct Marketing (Infogest); Infogest employees Mary Thanos, Daniel Sousse and Philip Lett; Hong Kong corporation Destiny Research Center Ltd.; Destiny Research Center President Martin Dettling of Zurich, Switzerland; as well as Patrick Guerin and Maria Duval, both of France.
"This widespread scam targeted more than one million Americans, many of whom were elderly or in financial distress," said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer, head of the Justice Department's Civil Division. "The Justice Department is committed to stopping such fraud and pursuing all those responsible for lying to vulnerable consumers for their own financial gain."
"To line their own pockets, the defendants preyed upon the superstition and desperation of millions of vulnerable Americans," said U.S. Attorney Robert L. Capers for the Eastern District of New York. "We will use every means at our disposal to protect our citizens from fraudulent schemes like this, that target the lonely, the ill, and the elderly."
The defendants are barred from using the U.S. mail to distribute any advertisements, solicitations or promotional materials on behalf of any psychics, clairvoyants or astrologers. The defendants are also barred from using the U.S. mail to distribute materials representing that services or items offered for purchase will increase the recipient's odds of winning a lottery, will bring the recipient good luck or will entitle the recipient to receive an inheritance. Additionally, the decree authorizes the U.S. Postal Inspection Service to return to consumers any money or personal checks mailed to the defendants.