11 May 2024

The Saga of Marianne Smyth, a Scammer Extraordinaire Continues


By Jon Donnis

In the intricate web of deceit and illusion, Marianne Smyth's name stands out as a maestro of manipulation. Her tale, akin to a script from a Hollywood thriller, weaves through continents, leaving a trail of shattered dreams and betrayed trust. Now, a federal court ruling may pave the way for her extradition to the United Kingdom, where justice awaits those she allegedly defrauded.

Smyth's narrative reads like a character from a novel, with elements of mystery, deception, and the surreal. Hailing from Maine, her journey took her far beyond the borders of her birthplace. However, it was not the picturesque landscapes of Ireland that beckoned her but rather the allure of ill-gotten gains and the thrill of assuming false identities.

At the heart of Smyth's saga lies a tangled scheme of impersonation and financial exploitation. Posing as an Irish heiress with a penchant for the occult, she spun a web of lies that ensnared unsuspecting victims on both sides of the Atlantic. From claims of psychic abilities to fabricated connections with Hollywood elites, Smyth's arsenal of deceit knew no bounds.

The recent ruling by U.S. Magistrate Judge John Nivison marks a crucial juncture in Smyth's tumultuous odyssey. With the court finding sufficient evidence to support her extradition to the U.K., Smyth's fate now hangs in the balance, awaiting the final verdict from Secretary of State Antony Blinken. For her accusers, it represents a glimmer of hope in their pursuit of closure and restitution.

Central to Smyth's alleged crimes are accusations of fraud and theft, spanning a period from 2008 to 2010 in Northern Ireland. The modus operandi, as outlined in court documents, involved promises of lucrative investments and fictitious property transactions, all designed to dupe her victims into parting with their hard-earned money. The echoes of her schemes reverberate in the accounts of those who fell prey to her elaborate ruse.

Among Smyth's victims is Johnathan Walton, whose encounter with the enigmatic scammer served as a catalyst for unraveling her elaborate facade. Through his podcast, Walton shed light on Smyth's deceitful practices, mobilizing a community of survivors who had been ensnared by her charm and deception. Their testimonies paint a portrait of Smyth as a chameleon-like figure, adept at assuming various personas to suit her nefarious objectives.

Listen to Episode one on iTunes at https://apple.co/3JjDG0u

In many ways, Smyth's story parallels that of infamous impostors like Anna Sorokin, whose exploits captivated the public imagination. Yet, behind the allure of wealth and glamour lies a stark reality of shattered lives and broken trust. Smyth's journey from Bangor to the corridors of justice serves as a cautionary tale against the seductive allure of deception and the devastating consequences it leaves in its wake.

As Smyth awaits her fate, her saga serves as a reminder of the resilience of those who refuse to be silenced by the machinations of deceit. Through their perseverance and determination, they have brought to light the truth behind Smyth's elaborate charade, offering hope to those who have been victimized by her deception. In the end, it is not merely justice that they seek but the restoration of trust and the reclaiming of stolen dignity in the face of adversity.

8 May 2024

Unveiling the Veil: The Dubious History of Tarot Cards and Tarot Card Readers

Tarot Cards


By Jon Donnis
In a world where mysticism and the supernatural often collide with skepticism, few practices provoke as much controversy and curiosity as tarot card reading. Cloaked in enigmatic imagery, draped in elaborate attire, and adorned with mystical jewelry, tarot readers have captured the fascination of many for centuries. But behind the facade of mystique lies a history shrouded in dubious origins and questionable practices.

The history of tarot cards traces back to 15th-century Europe, where they emerged as playing cards for the wealthy elite. Initially, these cards, known as "trionfi" or "trumps," depicted allegorical scenes and were used for entertainment purposes. However, it wasn't until the late 18th century that the tarot deck gained associations with divination and mysticism, thanks in part to the writings of occultists like Antoine Court de G├ębelin and Eliphas Levi.

One of the most enduring myths surrounding tarot cards is their supposed ancient origins, often linked to ancient Egypt or Atlantis. However, historical evidence contradicts such claims, revealing tarot's relatively recent emergence in European society. The symbolism found in tarot decks, far from being timeless, reflects the cultural milieu of Renaissance Europe, drawing from Christian, classical, and esoteric sources.

Tarot readers themselves often contribute to the mystique surrounding their practice through elaborate costumes, jewelry and fashionable cheap rings. Decked out in flowing robes, adorned with glistening crystals, and draped in exotic fabrics, they create an ambiance of otherworldly wisdom. But beneath the theatrics lies a simple truth: these accouterments serve as props to enhance the illusion of mystical insight.

The process of tarot reading itself relies heavily on psychological principles and the power of suggestion. When a client seeks guidance from a tarot reader, they are often in a vulnerable state, grappling with uncertainties and seeking clarity. Through a combination of cold reading, intuition, and selective interpretation, the tarot reader provides vague and generalized insights that seem tailored to the individual's circumstances.

Cold reading techniques, such as fishing for information and making educated guesses based on body language and verbal cues, allow tarot readers to appear perceptive and insightful. By asking open-ended questions and making ambiguous statements, they encourage clients to interpret the cards' symbolism in a way that resonates with their own experiences and desires.

Furthermore, the subjective nature of tarot interpretation ensures that readings remain open to multiple interpretations. A single card can be interpreted in countless ways, allowing the tarot reader to craft a narrative that fits the client's expectations. Confirmation bias also plays a significant role, as clients are more likely to remember and focus on the aspects of the reading that confirm their preconceived beliefs.

The ritualistic aspects of tarot reading, such as shuffling the cards, laying them out in a specific pattern, and invoking spiritual energies, further enhance the illusion of authenticity. Yet, these rituals serve primarily to create a sense of ceremony and mystique rather than to channel supernatural forces.

In reality, tarot reading operates on the principles of suggestion, intuition, and psychology rather than mystical divination. While some may find solace and guidance in the symbolism of the cards, it's essential to approach tarot reading with a critical eye and a healthy dose of skepticism.

The history of tarot cards and readers is rife with myth, mystery, and misconceptions. From their humble origins as playing cards to their transformation into tools of divination, tarot decks have captured the imagination of believers and skeptics alike. Yet, behind the veil of mystique lies a practice grounded in psychology, suggestion, and theatricality. While tarot reading may offer comfort and insight to some, it's essential to recognize its limitations and approach it with a discerning mind.

3 May 2024

The Enigmatic Art of Mentalism: Unraveling the Mind Reader's Illusion

The realm of mentalism has long captivated audiences with its seemingly supernatural abilities to delve into the innermost thoughts and secrets of individuals. The enigmatic performers, known as mentalists, possess an uncanny knack for convincing their spectators that they possess the ability to read minds. This article will delve into the techniques employed by mentalists to create the illusion of mind reading, exploring various examples of their craft. And remember the only real difference between a Mentalist and a Psychic, is the label they refer to themselves.

Psychological Manipulation:

One of the key tools in a mentalist's arsenal is psychological manipulation. Mentalists skillfully exploit cognitive biases, perception, and suggestibility to steer an audience member toward a desired conclusion. By understanding the human mind's vulnerabilities, mentalists create an environment that facilitates the illusion of mind reading.

Example: Cold Reading

During a performance, a mentalist might engage an audience member in what appears to be an impromptu conversation. By carefully observing body language, facial expressions, and verbal cues, the mentalist can make educated guesses about the person's background, personality traits, and experiences. This technique, known as cold reading, gives the illusion of accessing personal information from the depths of the individual's mind.

Nonverbal Communication:

Mentalists are adept at decoding nonverbal cues, as these can provide invaluable insights into a person's thoughts and emotions. By honing their skills in micro-expressions, eye movements, and body language, mentalists create the impression that they possess an uncanny ability to perceive hidden information.

Example: Eye Accessing Cues

Through the observation of eye movements, mentalists can infer the thought processes taking place within an individual's mind. By linking certain eye movements to specific thought patterns, a mentalist might accurately guess a person's preferred sensory system (visual, auditory, or kinesthetic) and further tailor their performance to exploit this information.

Verbal Techniques:

The power of suggestion and linguistic manipulation lies at the core of a mentalist's ability to convince an audience of their mind-reading prowess. By carefully choosing their words and utilizing linguistic patterns, mentalists can subtly influence the thoughts and decisions of their subjects.

Example: The Barnum Effect

The Barnum Effect, named after renowned showman P.T. Barnum, refers to the tendency of individuals to accept general, vague statements as highly accurate descriptions of themselves. Mentalists employ this technique by making statements that are applicable to a wide range of people. By using ambiguous statements with enough conviction, mentalists can convince individuals that they possess intimate knowledge of their innermost thoughts.

Pre-show Research:

Before a performance, mentalists often conduct extensive research on their audience members or specific individuals they plan to involve. This research helps them gather specific information about people's lives, interests, and experiences, creating the illusion of mind reading.

Example: Social Media Mining

In the age of social media, mentalists have unprecedented access to personal information. By meticulously analyzing individuals' online profiles, posts, and interactions, mentalists can uncover a wealth of details that they can later use during their performances. When a mentalist reveals such information during a show, it appears as though they possess an extraordinary ability to access private thoughts.


Conclusion:

Mentalists possess a remarkable skill set that enables them to convince audiences of their ability to read minds. Through a combination of psychological manipulation, nonverbal communication analysis, verbal techniques, and pre-show research, mentalists create a captivating illusion that leaves spectators in awe. While the art of mentalism is not based on supernatural abilities, its practitioners demonstrate a deep understanding of human psychology, making for an enthralling experience that blurs the line between reality and illusion.

17 April 2024

Convicted Scammer, Accused 'Psychic' and Irish Heiress Imposter Faces Extradition to UK

What an Irish heiress should look like!




By Jon Donnis

A woman accused of orchestrating a multi-state scam under the guise of an Irish heiress and purported psychic abilities is slated for a crucial court appearance on Wednesday. Marianne Smyth, a 54-year-old American, faces potential extradition to the United Kingdom where she is alleged to have defrauded victims of over $170,000 between 2008 and 2010.

Smyth's saga took a new turn after her arrest in February in Maine, following years of eluding authorities. Her legal woes trace back to accusations of pilfering funds promised for investments and fraudulent real estate transactions in Northern Ireland. Legal documents reveal that arrest warrants were issued in 2021, leading to her eventual apprehension earlier this year. Currently detained at Piscataquis County Jail in Dover-Foxcroft, Smyth awaits her fate as legal proceedings unfold.

Represented by attorney Kaylee Folster, Smyth maintains her innocence, prompting a call for a hearing to address the charges against her. Neither Smyth nor her legal counsel offered comments regarding the ongoing case.

Echoing the infamous tale of Anna Sorokin, better known as the "Soho Grifter," Smyth's alleged deception entangled unsuspecting individuals across the United States. Notable among her victims is Johnathan Walton, who, spurred by his own experience, initiated the "Queen of the Con" podcast to alert others about Smyth's fraudulent activities. Smyth's modus operandi allegedly involved exploiting vulnerabilities and fabricating elaborate narratives to dupe her victims into parting with substantial sums of money.


Listen to Episode one on iTunes at https://apple.co/3JjDG0u

The podcast, "Queen of the Con," has served as a platform for numerous victims to share their encounters with Smyth, unveiling a pattern of deceit that spans from coast to coast. Heather Sladinski, a costume designer from Los Angeles, recounts being swindled out of $20,000 for purported psychic readings and dubious life coaching sessions. Smyth's repertoire allegedly included outlandish rituals and promises, leaving her victims disillusioned and financially depleted.

Smyth's purported aliases and chameleon-like behavior, coupled with her extravagant claims, have left a trail of devastation in her wake. From feigned associations with celebrities to fabricating charitable endeavors, Smyth's web of lies ensnared individuals from all walks of life.

As Smyth's extradition hearing looms, the prospect of justice for her alleged victims draws nearer. Yet, the enduring legacy of her deceit serves as a cautionary tale against the perils of misplaced trust and the allure of grandiose promises.


Season 1: The Irish Heiress
Marianne "Mair" Smyth is a new neighbor from Ireland with a $30 million inheritance coming to her any day. She's dating a  Los Angeles politician and working as a psychic for A-list celebrities like Jennifer Aniston.  But in reality, she's a professional con artist using witchcraft, confidence tricks and dating apps to scam hundreds of thousands from dozens of unsuspecting victims all over the world.   And that's only the beginning...   # queen of the con mair smyth marianne smyth

Listen now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. 

For bonus content follow on Instagram @QueenOfTheCon

16 April 2024

Canadian Man Sentenced to 10 Years for $175M Psychic Mass-Mailing Fraud Scheme

AI Image



By Jon Donnis

Scheme Defrauded Over 1.3 Million Victims in the United States

In a significant legal development, a Canadian man, Patrice Runner, 57, has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for orchestrating a massive psychic mass-mailing fraud scheme that pilfered over $175 million from more than 1.3 million victims in the United States. The sentencing, which took place Monday, April 15th, 2024 in the Eastern District of New York, follows a two-week trial that ended with Runner's conviction in June 2023.

Runner, a Canadian and French citizen, was found guilty of several charges, including conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, as well as multiple counts of mail fraud and wire fraud. The scheme, operational from 1994 to November 2014, preyed on vulnerable individuals, particularly the elderly, through a barrage of personalized letters purportedly from well-known "psychics" Maria Duval and Patrick Guerin. These letters promised recipients wealth and happiness in exchange for a fee.

Despite the personalized nature of the letters, investigations revealed that they were essentially identical form letters sent en masse to tens of thousands of victims weekly. Runner, along with his accomplices, obtained names of susceptible victims by trading mailing lists with other fraudulent schemes. Contrary to the promises made in the letters, neither Duval nor Guerin were involved in sending them, nor did they receive responses or send additional letters after victims made payments.

Runner managed the entire operation throughout its two-decade span, directing his co-conspirators who operated the scheme through a Canadian company. To conceal his involvement, Runner utilized a network of shell companies registered in Canada and Hong Kong while residing in various foreign countries.

Spanish authorities facilitated Runner's extradition to the United States in December 2020, leading to his federal charges and subsequent conviction.

Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton emphasized the collaborative effort involved in bringing Runner to justice, acknowledging the assistance provided by various international agencies and the Canadian Competition Bureau.

Inspector in Charge Chris Nielsen of the US Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) Philadelphia Division condemned Runner's actions, highlighting the exploitation of vulnerable Americans and affirming the commitment of Postal Inspectors to combat such predatory schemes.

Four other co-conspirators, Maria Thanos, Philip Lett, Sherry Gore, and Daniel Arnold, had previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud in connection with the scheme.

The investigation was led by USPIS, with prosecution handled by the Civil Division's Consumer Protection Branch. The Justice Department's Office of International Affairs played a crucial role in securing Runner's extradition.

The US Department of Justice issued a warning to the public, urging vigilance against fraudulent schemes, particularly those involving psychic, lottery, prize notification, and sweepstakes scams. Individuals who suspect elder fraud are encouraged to contact the National Elder Fraud Hotline for assistance and support.

For more information and resources on combating elder fraud, individuals are directed to visit the Justice Department's Elder Justice Initiative webpage and the Consumer Protection Branch's enforcement efforts page.

Elder fraud complaints may be filed with the FTC at www.reportfraud.ftc.gov or at 877-FTC-HELP. (United States Only)

The sentencing of Patrice Runner marks a significant milestone in the fight against transnational fraud, underscoring the commitment of law enforcement agencies to safeguarding vulnerable individuals from financial exploitation.