Canada, 22 April, 2024 A Canadian conman, Patrice Runner, 57, holding citizenship with both Canada and France, has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for orchestrating a massive psychic mass-mailing fraud scheme that swindled over US$175 million from North American victims. Runner was convicted by a jury in June on multiple charges, including conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit money laundering. The sentence was handed down by a New York judge on Monday, marking the culmination of US authorities’ pursuit of Runner since 2014.

The scheme, perpetrated through Runner’s companies, involved sending letters, falsely personalized and purportedly from the renowned French psychic Maria Duval, to millions of recipients. The letters promised recipients an “opportunity to achieve great wealth and happiness with the psychic’s assistance.” Targeting primarily elderly and vulnerable individuals, recipients were urged to send a fee for an “astral-clairvoyant forecast.” Subsequently, they would receive numerous additional letters, also purportedly personalized, requesting further fees. Additionally, recipients were asked to mail personal items, such as locks of hair, palm prints, and photos, purportedly for additional personalized rituals and astrological services.

Runner, however, has maintained his innocence, asserting that his mail business, Infogest Direct Marketing, did not engage in fraudulent activities. He argued that dissatisfied customers would have requested refunds if they felt misled. Despite his claims, Runner has a history of involvement in fraudulent schemes. In 1991, a company under his name was fined for falsely advertising clairvoyant services, while in 2000, another company faced fines for misleading advertising related to weight-loss products.

In a candid interview with the Walrus magazine from a New York detention center, Runner admitted to the allure of his long-running scam, emphasizing his ability to captivate millions of individuals who would promptly send payments to an unfamiliar company for a product they knew little about. The scheme, operated through shell companies registered in Canada and Hong Kong, involved an estimated 56 million letters sent over two decades, resulting in profits of US$175 million from nearly 1.5 million people across Canada and the US.

Runner’s arrest in Ibiza in December 2020, following extradition negotiations, marked the culmination of law enforcement’s investigation into the fraudulent operation, which was shut down in 2016. Four other individuals linked to the scam have pleaded guilty.

Acknowledging his previous lavish lifestyle, Runner expressed regret for not exercising caution, believing that his mail-order business would endure indefinitely.


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