Patrice Runner, a fraudulent psychic, has been found guilty of orchestrating a sophisticated mail fraud scam that targeted 56 million elderly Americans, resulting in a staggering $175 million in losses. Operating over a span of two decades, Runner deceived vulnerable individuals by sending personalized letters claiming to be from renowned French psychics. The scheme exploited victims’ personal information purchased from data brokers, convincing them of the psychic’s abilities and manipulating them into making repeated payments. Runner now faces a potential prison sentence of up to 280 years for his crimes.
The Elaborate Fraud Scheme
Patrice Runner’s scam involved a carefully crafted strategy to defraud elderly Americans seeking guidance and assistance. Letters purportedly written by two well-known French psychics, Maria Duval and Patrick Guerin, were sent to victims, promising life-changing advice and solutions in exchange for payment. The letters included vague predictions and requested personal items, such as locks of hair, for supposed personalized rituals. Runner capitalized on victims’ vulnerability by making them believe that their lives would improve if they continued to make payments.
Extradition and Conviction
Runner, a Canadian and French citizen, was extradited from Spain to the United States in December 2020. After a trial, a jury found him guilty on multiple charges, including conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit money laundering. The verdict was a resounding affirmation of the fraudulent nature of Runner’s scheme, and he now awaits sentencing, facing a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison for each count.
Exploiting the Elderly and Vulnerable
Runner’s fraudulent scheme specifically targeted the elderly and individuals facing financial difficulties, preying on their desperation to improve their circumstances. By using the names and images of well-known psychics, the letters promised recipients wealth, happiness, and good health in exchange for cash payments. The scheme sent nearly identical letters to thousands of victims each week, falsely claiming to provide personalized visions and assistance. Victims who responded to the initial letters were bombarded with subsequent personalized messages, demanding further payments.
The Role of Data Brokers and Shell Companies
According to Daily Mail News, To enhance the illusion of personalization, Runner obtained personal information, including dates and places of birth, from data brokers. This data allowed him to create a facade of credibility and authenticity, reinforcing victims’ belief in the psychics’ abilities. Runner used a network of shell companies to conceal his involvement in the scheme while residing in various foreign countries, making it challenging for authorities to track his activities.
Protecting Privacy and Seeking Justice
Prosecutors have emphasized the fact that neither Maria Duval nor Patrick Guerin had any involvement in sending the letters or receiving responses from victims. The letters were simply a guise used by Runner to deceive individuals and extract money from them. The victims’ responses were directed to a New York-based company, where the majority were discarded. Runner’s manipulation tactics included adding coffee stains and handwritten annotations to make the letters appear authentic, even though they were mass-produced with minimal variation.