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DOJ Says Firms Sold Hope and Empty Promises

CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. (CN) - The U.S. Justice Department filed a pair of lawsuits against firms it says marketed bogus psychic services to sell more than $15 million in worthless trinkets and promises to vulnerable victims.

"Relying on superstition and fear, the defendants defrauded tens of millions of dollars from thousands of vulnerable citizens," said U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch for the Eastern District of New York, who is also poised to become the first black female U.S. Attorney General.

In the first scheme, Destiny Research Center and Infogest Direct Marketing sent letters to victims purporting to be written specifically to them by psychics Maria Duval and Patrick Guerin, prosecutors say.

In the second scam, the government says, defendant Christine Moussu allegedly used CLGE Inc. and ID Marketing Solutions to send out letters claiming to be written by psychics David Phild, Sandra Rochefort, Antonia Donera and Nicholas Chakan.

Destiny Research Center's operation has taken in $13 million, while the CLGE scam took in up to $2 million, according to court documents.

U.S. District Judge Sandra Feuerstein on Wednesday approved the government's request for a restraining order.

The lawsuits claim the companies "made blatant misrepresentations in order to reap financial gain by scamming thousands of Americans, many of whom were elderly and in a vulnerable financial condition," said Acting Assistant Attorney General Joyce R. Branda.

Victims are urged to pay up to $50 for various "talismans and psychic services," according to one of the complaints.

In one such letter, purported to have been hand-delivered from Rochefort, victims were told they were receiving the notice because Rochefort had "specific visions" about them personally, and because a "mutual friend brought that consumer to the psychics' attention."

The letter promised the recipient a "very large sum of money at a game of chance," and that they will live in the "center of a quiet and upscale neighborhood."

In another campaign, thousands of letters purportedly written by Phild were sent out, claiming that the victim's name has been "resounding with warmth in my mind, like a foghorn that tirelessly calls me and leads me back to your voice and your image."

The letter promised that the recipient would "deposit at the bank a huge check, bearing an astronomical amount that will make possible all your most gigantic dreams of greatness and luxuries."

The letters urged recipients to buy talismans and trinkets that "have brought good fortune to many others throughout history," prosecutors say.

The letters were pumped out by the thousands, and were hardly authentic, the complaints say.

"In reality, defendants purchase lists of individuals who have previously shown an interest in astrology, and email tens of thousands of identical, purportedly personalized solicitations every month to consumers throughout the United States," according to one of the complaints.

And the trinkets are useless, the government says.

"In fact, all such items are purchased in bulk from vendors in Asia and offered for sale to tens of thousands of consumers," according to the complaint.

In another scam, Destiny Research Center asked consumers to send back information, like their birth date, or physical things like pictures of themselves or locks of hair.

However, "employees at Data Marketing Group throw the green envelopes returned by consumers into the trash without opening them," the complaint says.

Central to both scams, prosecutors say, is Metro Data Management on Long Island, which allegedly performed "caging" services by processing payments and maintaining victims' databases.

The government seeks to shut down the alleged scams, as well as injunctions that would allow the U.S. Postal Service to keep such correspondences. Both lawsuits were filed by Ann Entwistle of the Department of Justice.


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