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June 19, 2015

Iowa Judge Orders New York Company to Pay $200,000 for Helping Fraudulent European Psychics Dupe Elderly Iowans

(DES MOINES, Iowa) A New York City company has paid $200,000 to the Consumer Protection Division for refunds to Iowans who were targeted by European psychic mail campaigns that the company helped orchestrate.

In a consent judgment signed Friday by Polk County District Court Judge Mary Pat Gunderson, Faircom and company senior account director Audrey Corvino were ordered to pay $200,000 and must permanently halt all such mailings to Iowans. Faircom was further ordered to ensure that no one else uses the Iowa mailing lists.

Each highly personalized mailing promised that, for a fee of between about $20 and $35, the psychics would miraculously deliver health, wealth and happiness. The European psychics included “Stella Angelstone, Clairvoyant and Medium,” “Chris, Master & Mentor in Clairvoyance,” “Angela Moya, Great Protective High Priestess.”

As one example of the mailings used to cheat elderly Iowans, Miller pointed to a personalized 2014 solicitation letter from “Stella Angelstone.” The mailing features an image that purported to be of Angelstone, but was a commercially available generic stock photo.

In the letter Angelstone, a supposed European psychic, addressed the Iowan by her first name, and claimed to have had a vision in which the woman could be seen winning “at least $54 million” on a particular upcoming date -- October 11, 2014. But the victim was asked to pay for certain rituals that would have to be carried out to make the vision come true.

The British company that used the Angelstone persona to bilk Americans, SMCS, relied on Faircom’s New York staff to examine each mailing, and then coordinate the layout, printing, and distribution of the fraudulent mailings. Faircom also arranged for checks to be collected at a return address in the U.S., and the funds were then forwarded to Europe.

As an illustration of the sort of vulnerability exhibited by people who are victimized by such schemes, Miller said that his office obtained a copy of a handwritten response sent to “Stella Angelstone” by one of her victims. An Angelstone mailing had asked him for $29, in return for which Angelstone would protect him from a “horrible” clairvoyant who had been “raiding” his luck and ruining his life. The man acknowledged to Angelstone that his luck had indeed been bad of late, and asked for her protection because he was being “taken advantage of for my money.” “Obviously, asking those behind the Stella Angelstone scheme for protection from financial predators is ironic in the worst way,” Miller said.

“Fraudulent operators in Switzerland, France, and the United Kingdom needed a US-based accomplice to get these scam mailings distributed to older Iowans and other Americans, and Faircom delivered,” Miller said. “This case shows that a company can’t knowingly profit by helping a predatory scheme claim its victims, and expect to get away with it.”

Miller said his office learned of Faircom’s role as a facilitator of psychic scams last year when an eastern Iowa woman discovered that her 91-year-old mother was going broke sending checks to self-styled psychics and prize promoters. According to Miller, information provided by this one victim has been instrumental in shutting down numerous psychic and prize schemes, halting much of the fraudulent mail accosting Iowans, especially older Iowans. While it’s not clear how many of Faircom’s mailings were sent to Iowans, the company acknowledged that it facilitated hundreds of thousands mailings nationwide, likely resulting in millions in losses.

Tips for Consumers

  • Anyone offering to use psychic powers to make you wealthy or improve your life – for a fee – is trying to scam you.  Don’t be taken in!
  • Letters from strangers that list your first name and claim a personal interest in your life are often mass-mailed to tens of thousands, to see who will respond by sending a check.  Don’t be fooled!
  • If an older Iowan sends money in response to a fraudulent mailing, he or she may be targeted by a host of other scammers -- developing into a feeding frenzy that can bleed the victim’s bank account. Be aware that this can happen to older relatives, neighbors, or friends, and report such incidents to the Consumer Protection Division.

To file a consumer fraud complaint, contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division through the Attorney General’s website at www.IowaAttorneyGeneral.gov or email directly to consumer@ag.iowa.gov. Consumers can also call the Consumer Protection Division at 515-281-5926, or outside the Des Moines area, toll free, at 888-777-4590.

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