When you are a French psychic, the spirits may move in mysterious ways. For 1900s chiromancer Madame Fraya, the sensuous lines of Parisian penmanship induced visions. For her contemporary Marthe Béraud, a ghost appeared as a 300-year-old “Hindustani priest” named Bien-Boa, who was later revealed to be a hired coachman dressed up in a “cloak, helmet, and beard.”
Now, for three French residents and two corporations, the gods have manifested as a permanent injunction filed Friday in Florida’s Southern District Court, alleging the group perpetuated “hundreds of thousands” of psychic mail fraud schemes, in which they conned Americans out of millions by offering them “psychic, clairvoyant, or astrological services” and ancient mystical “talismans” that turned out to be cheap garbage bought in bulk from online wholesale retailers.
According to a complaint filed Wednesday, Robert Lhez, Julie Poulleau, and Mireille Dayer (who is Swiss, but lives in France), teamed up with two companies (one from Delaware, the other Swiss) to offer their psychic services in exchange for a “processing fee.” They sent letters to a lucky few claiming that supernatural energies had bestowed them with some financial windfall, by way of one or more gorgeously incoherent rituals. (For example, the “Official Ceremony of the Grand Druids,” which allegedly took place “under the Majestic Royal Cedar Tree.”) All the recipients had to do was respond with a small sum in order to receive their bounties.
The letters themselves — signed with fake names like “Laura Vivian,” “Helena Fay,” “Louis de Kersan,” or “Donovan” — were equally well-crafted. This one, from “Helena Fay,” claimed a talisman called the “Precious Ruby of Perfect Destiny” had been bequeathed by a “rich investor and American businessman” named John. John insisted on giving the $12,000 rock to anyone named “Patricia:”
So, it’s now time for John to give the Invaluable Ruby, given to him by the Maharaja de Jaipur, to a person who has a pressing need for money and a blatant lack of luck....He told me that his Mother was American and was called Patricia and that he wanted the person who inherited the Precious Ruby of perfect destiny, to also bear the name Patricia...
You are called Patricia, you have an urgent need for money, you lack luck and you understand the true value of things! You fit the profile exactly!
The fees tended to be around $40 or $50 each. But the scams, which have been going on since at least 2012, have proven pretty lucrative, as mystical alleged mail frauds go. Between March 2017 and June 2018 alone, the complaint claims, the group raked in some 34,000 payments totalling around $1.4 million. It seems the spirit stops here though: as part of the final judgement, filed Friday, the French psychics and their corporate allies have agreed to permanently stop sending mass marketing messages in the U.S. and surrender all their magic materials.
In any case, our thoughts go out to everyone who bought what these psychics were selling. We’d advise them to invest money in more trustworthy markets that aren’t transparently made up, manipulated by corporate con artists with sixth grade literacy, and subjected to the erratic whims of intangible forces. Consider the stock market.