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Man Jailed For 10 Years For $175m Psychic Mail Fraud

Department for Justice

A man has been jailed for 10 years after carrying out a 20-year, $175 million fraud targeting elderly people with fake psychics.

Patrice Runner, 57, a Canadian and French citizen, was jailed for the scam, which targeted 1.3 million people across North America.

Runner was convicted after a two-week trial in June 2023.

He was found guilty of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering and multiple counts of mail fraud and wire fraud.

He was sentenced on April 15 in the Eastern District of New York.

The scam started in 1994 and ran until 2014.

It saw two million people, largely elderly and vulnerable, targeted with letters claiming to be from legitimate "psychics" Maria Duval and Patrick Guerin.

They promised the recipient great wealth and happiness if they paid a fee to the "psychics" to help them.

Scam Lasted for 20 Years

Once they had paid, they were bombarded with more letters.

These offered additional services for extra fees.

The letters said the "psychic" had seen a personal vision about the recipient of the letter.

In fact, the letters were near identical and sent to tens of thousands of people a week.

Runner and his co-conspirators got the names by renting and trading mailing lists with other mail fraud schemes.

In reality, Duval and Guerin had no role in sending the letters.

They also did not receive the victims' responses and did not send the additional letters once the first payment had been made.

The court also heard how no "psychics" were involved in the scam at all.

Some victims made dozens of payments, losing thousands of dollars.

Runner was in charge of the scheme for its 20-year operation.

He directed the co-conspirators, who ran the day-to-day operations through a Canadian company.

Runner used a series of shell companies registered in Canada and Hong Kong to hide his involvement.

This was while living in numerous foreign countries like Switzerland, France, The Netherlands, Costa Rica and Spain.

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He was apprehended by the authorities in Spain and extradited to face federal charges in December 2020.

"Patrice Runner’s extravagant lifestyle, born on the backs of millions of older and vulnerable Americans, has come to an end"

Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division, said:“This case demonstrates that the Justice Department’s Consumer Protection Branch and its partners in the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) are committed to investigating and prosecuting transnational fraud schemes targeting Americans consumers.

“The global nature of this scheme meant that we had to rely on law enforcement from around the globe to provide evidence of criminality.

"We want to thank officials from France, Liechtenstein, Switzerland and Canada, and in particular the Canadian Competition Bureau, for providing assistance in securing evidence in this matter, as well as Spain for arresting and extraditing Runner, ensuring that justice could be done.” 

Inspector in Charge Chris Nielsen of the USPIS Philadelphia Division, added: "Patrice Runner’s extravagant lifestyle, born on the backs of millions of older and vulnerable Americans, has come to an end.

“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 US Mail is free of these types of predatory schemes.”

Four other co-conspirators previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud in connection with this mass-mailing fraud scheme:

  • Maria Thanos, 60, of Montreal, Canada
  • Philip Lett, 53, of Montreal
  • Sherry Gore, 73, of Indiana
  • Daniel Arnold, 62, of Connecticut

Assistant Director John W. Burke and Trial Attorneys Charles B. Dunn, Rachel Baron and Ann Entwistle of the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch prosecuted the case.

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