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Man sentenced to 10 years for psychic mass-mailing fraud scheme

A Canadian man and four co-defendants bilked over 1 million Americans out of $175 million by sending letters that claimed to offer psychic services.
Man sentenced to 10 years for psychic mass-mailing fraud scheme
Posted at 9:16 AM, Apr 16, 2024

The Department of Justice said a Canadian man has been given a 10-year prison sentence after a court found that he defrauded 1.3 million Americans by operating a psychic mass-mailing fraud scheme.

The DOJ says Patrice Runner was convicted in 2023 of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and multiple counts of mail fraud and wire fraud. The DOJ said he operated the scheme for nearly 20 years, from 1994 to 2014. 

The DOJ said Runner sent mailings to millions of Americans, mainly older people, that "promised that the recipient had the opportunity to achieve great wealth and happiness with the assistance of the 'psychics' in exchange for payment of a fee." The DOJ said the letters purported to be individualized from well-known self-proclaimed psychics Maria Duval and Patrick Guerin. In reality, Duval and Guerin were not involved in the scheme. 

In total, the scheme cost Americans $175 million.

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Runner's mailings were largely identical and not personalized, officials said. 

There were some victims of the scheme who made multiple payments to Runner, each losing thousands of dollars, the DOJ said. 

Authorities said Runner lived in multiple foreign countries, including Switzerland, France, the Netherlands, Costa Rica and Spain. Co-conspirators Maria Thanos, Philip Lett, Sherry Gore and Daniel Arnold all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud in connection to the scheme, the DOJ said. 

“Patrice Runner’s extravagant lifestyle, born on the backs of millions of older and vulnerable Americans, has come to an end,” said Inspector in Charge Chris Nielsen of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service Philadelphia Division. “The conviction and federal sentencing of Patrice Runner is the appropriate punishment for someone who routinely preyed on vulnerable and elderly Americans. Postal Inspectors will continue to work tirelessly to ensure you can trust that the U.S. Mail is free of these types of predatory schemes.”

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