A 57-year-old Quebec man has just been convicted of masterminding one of the largest mail fraud operations in US history, posing as a fortune teller in order to defraud the elderly or infirm.
With over a million victims robbed of nearly $238 million in two decades, Patrice Runner can now establish himself as the biggest con-man from the county.
By comparison, the spectacular fraud by Vincent Lacroix, with his investment management firm Norburg, defrauded 9,200 investors out of $130 million in 2005.
Last Thursday, Runner was found guilty of approximately 15 counts of mail fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy to engage in money laundering by a New York State jury.
From 1994 to 2014, Runner was the president of Infogest Direct Marketing, a mail company that sent millions of fraudulent letters to the United States and Canada. Its main office was in Place Ville-Marie, Montreal.
Letters sent by ‘world-famous psychics’ appeared at first glance to be personalized, as they repeatedly mentioned the recipient’s name, read and see the accusing document filed in 2018 Newspaper.
For an amount of between $5 and $50, these fortune-tellers, who operated under the names Maria Duvall and Patrick Guérin, offered to “help the victims obtain luck or material advantages, or to avoid misfortune, disease, or other adverse outcomes.” Says.
In other mailings, victims were asked to send photos, a handprint, or a lock of hair so that fortune-tellers could “conduct personal rituals and occult services,” as determined by US authorities.
Once he gave the victim an initial sum for the clairvoyance service, he was then asked for between $20 and $50. And the scammers were adamant: many victims received more than a hundred letters from them.
The group behind the massive scam obtained the majority of the victims’ names and addresses through rented mailing lists or swapped for other mail, according to US authorities.
The mere fact that fortune-telling or fortune-telling services may sometimes be offered and sold for entertainment purposes does not imply […] The US government said in a pretrial note.
This fraud stopped in 2016, when US authorities banned the companies that sent the letters from using their postal services.
“Runner used a series of shell companies registered in Canada and Hong Kong to conceal his involvement in the scheme while he lived in several foreign countries, including Switzerland, France, the Netherlands, Costa Rica and the Netherlands.” Spain,” the US State Department said in a statement.
The runner faces up to 20 years in prison on each count. He will receive his punishment later. The man, who holds dual Canadian and French citizenship, was arrested in Spain in 2018 and extradited to the United States two years later.
Two of his Montreal accomplices, Maria Thanos and Phillip Litt, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud in 2018.
– With Nicolas Brasseur, Bureau of Investigation
debate in Montreal
– In 1990, the Runner was mentioned here after he posted in classified ads in several Montreal media the services of a fortune teller who could predict the winning numbers in various lotteries. He was then fined more than $100,000.
– To carry out his fraudulent scheme, he used a group of companies registered in Canada and Hong Kong, while living in Switzerland, France, the Netherlands, Costa Rica and Spain.
Tens of thousands of letters were sent weekly to potential victims across America, from the offices of Place Ville Mare.
Within 20 years, it would have claimed nearly 1.4 million victims in the United States alone, according to the lawsuit.
– If someone has the misfortune to reply to a message, they can then receive more than sixty similar bait messages.
– The runner used the name of famous French clairvoyants, including the name of Maria Duval. She sold the rights to use her name, before losing control.
– In April 2019, Kebek was arrested in Ibiza where he now lives, and then extradited from Spain in 2020.
This issue has been the subject of multiple reports, as well as a book entitled: A Deal with the Devil: The Dark and Twisted True Story of One of History’s Greatest Defects.
With Jonathan Tremblay