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April 13, 2015

UK-Based Psychic Scheme Pays $7,000 for Refunds to Iowa Victims

More than 300 primarily elderly Iowans fell prey to personalized mailings from supposed psychic “Mary Theresa” or "Lady of Hearts"

(DES MOINES, Iowa) A United Kingdom company has paid $7,000 to the attorney general’s consumer protection division for refunds to mostly elderly Iowans who responded to personalized psychic solicitations.

The refunds will go to approximately 325 Iowa consumers who sent money at the request of “Mary Theresa,” also known as the “Lady of Hearts,” in response to mailings promising wealth and miracles.

Polk County District Court Judge Eliza Ovrom, through a consent judgment, approved the payment by Nature Plus Limited, of Stratford upon Avon, and its principal, Alida Maggiori, to resolve a consumer fraud lawsuit filed by Attorney General Tom Miller.

The court order also requires the defendants to cease all mail solicitations directed to Iowans and ensure that no one else uses the Iowa mailing list.

According to Miller, beginning in 2013 Nature Plus sent letters to elderly Iowans from the supposed clairvoyant claiming ties to the spiritual leaders of many world religions.

Each mailing appeared to be a personal letter, expressing a genuine interest in the recipient and promising riches and life-changing miracles. Each letter requested a “small fee” between approximately $20 and $54 which, for some elderly and vulnerable Iowans over time, added up to hundreds of dollars in losses.

“It’s not hard to understand how some older and more fragile people could be drawn in by these sincere-sounding lies,” Miller said. “What’s hard to understand, though, and something our office will not tolerate, are those preying upon susceptible Iowans who can least afford the losses, and picking their pockets.”

Miller said his office learned of the Nature Plus mailings through an eastern Iowa woman who discovered that her 91-year-old mother was almost going broke sending checks to self-styled psychics and prize promoters. The psychic mailings featured an array of characters claiming extraordinary powers and promising riches and good health, among other things.

“This elderly victim’s experience has exposed a very ugly set of practices,” Miller said. “Fake clairvoyants, manipulative mailings, sophisticated networks for targeting vulnerable people – these elements have conspired to cheat thousands of elderly Iowans, and we’re doing what we can to get their money back and keep it from happening again.”

According to Miller, many of the mailing operations that feature promises by supposed psychics are located in Europe, which presents special challenges to law enforcement authorities. “Hopefully this case helps convey the message that Iowa’s just a bad place to pursue these schemes, whether you’re doing it from across the river or across the ocean,” Miller said.

For more information or to file a 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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