Psychic Zoe has not had a very good week. On 9 May the fortune-teller, whose real name is Ann Thompson, was arrested by theNew YorkPoliceDepartment on suspicion of defrauding clients out of over $800,000. Youd think she might have had a premonition thepolicewould be knocking at her door but, alas, the future isnt always crystal clear.
Thepolicewere notified of Thompson after two of her victims contacted private investigator Bob Nygaard, who specializes in psychic scams (you can read about his workin a featurewe published in 2016).
Both victims would like their names to remain anonymous, however one is a mother in her late 40s from Canada who was defrauded of at least $740,000. The second victim is a professional man in his 30s from the midwest who met Thompson while on business in Manhattan last year, and who was scammed out of $72,000.
But what exactly is a psychic scam, you might ask? Surely any trip to a psychic involves a large leap of faith and no guarantees? Thats certainly true; it is difficult to take a fortune-teller to court because the tall, dark, handsome stranger you were told was definitely in your future never materialized. You can, however, charge a psychic for grand theft or larceny when theyve taken a large fortune from someone via deception or false promises.
Thompson, sensing a broken heart and a naive nature, quickly took advantage of the womans distress and drained her life savings. She convinced the Canadian that shed never find love again unless she bought the psychic a 9.2 carat diamond ring.
She also convinced the victim to spend large sums of money on spells that would vanquish demons, as well as on building a golden pyramid that would protect her and her loved ones from dying. Needless to say, the golden pyramid was entirely fictitious.
While Thompson is currently awaiting sentencing, Nygaard has already helped put a number of fraudulent fortune-tellers behind bars. By his count, he has helped successfully prosecute 30 psychics and recovered more than $3.5m for his clients to date.
Despite his track record, Nygaard still finds it difficult to get law enforcement to take clairvoyant chicanery seriously. While he says he received excellent cooperation from a NYPD detective, in regard to this particular case, all too often thepolicetend to treat psychic fraud like a joke.
However, Nygaard stresses, psychics conning desperate people out of large amounts of money is a serious problem. The prevalence with which these psychic scams are occurring, and the exorbitant amounts of money of which vulnerable people are being defrauded, not only in NYC but all over the USA, is absolutely astonishing, Nygaard toldthe Guardian. Policeand prosecutors need to wake up [and] realize that these self-proclaimed psychics are often part of organized criminal enterprises.