More than a million Americans, including some elderly and infirm, were bilked out of more than $180 million in international "psychic" mail fraud. Photo by hidesay/Shutterstock
CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y., May 9 (UPI) -- A "psychic" mail fraud operation that bilked more than 1 million Americans out of more than $180 million over 10 years has been shut down by a federal court.
U.S. District Judge Sandra Feuerstein, of the Eastern District of New York, approved the consent decree Friday that bans Montreal's Infogest Marketing, Hong Kong's Destiny Research Center Ltd. and six individuals from accessing the U.S. mail system to send items from alleged psychics, astrologers and clairvoyants.
French psychics Maria Duval and Peter Guerin predicted wealth for people who purchased their services, including winning the lottery.
A flier from Duval offered a personal reading for $45. They were instructed to mail back a green envelope with a personal photo and some strands of hair.
"In fact employees at Data Marketing Group throw the green envelopes returned by consumers into the trash without opening them," court papers state.
If they bought the items, they were "bombarded" with more offers. "In reality, the solicitations are identical, mass-produced form letters sent to tens of thousands of recipients throughout the United States every month," the Justice Department wrote in a press release.
In all, 56 million pieces of mail were sent since 2006.
"This widespread scam targeted more than 1 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 have agreed to the permanent injunction.