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.