She didn't see it coming: psychic arrested for $800,000 fraud

Despite her self-proclaimed clairvoyance, a New York City psychic was arrested by the NYPD, in the latest example of fortune-teller fraud

Photo of Ann Thompson’s business card
Photo of Ann Thompson’s business card. Photograph: Bob Nygaard

Psychic Zoe has not had a very good week. On 9 May the fortune-teller, whose real name is Ann Thompson, was arrested by the New York Police Department on suspicion of defrauding clients out of over $800,000. You’d think she might have had a premonition the police would be knocking at her door but, alas, the future isn’t always crystal clear.

The police were notified of Thompson after two of her victims contacted private investigator Bob Nygaard, who specializes in psychic scams (you can read about his work in a feature we published in 2016).

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Both victims would like their names to remain anonymous, however one is a mother in her late 40s from Canada who was defrauded of at least $740,000. The second victim is a professional man in his 30s from the midwest who met Thompson while on business in Manhattan last year, and who was scammed out of $72,000.

But what exactly is a “psychic scam”, you might ask? Surely any trip to a psychic involves a large leap of faith and no guarantees? That’s certainly true; it is difficult to take a fortune-teller to court because the tall, dark, handsome stranger you were told was definitely in your future never materialized. You can, however, charge a psychic for grand theft or larceny when they’ve taken a large fortune from someone via deception or false promises.

Bob Nygaard during a long day fighting fortune-teller fraud
Bob Nygaard during a long day fighting fortune-teller fraud. Photograph: Bob Nygaard

Thompson’s Canadian victim, for example, initially went to the psychic because she was having relationship problems. Why not pay $5 for Psychic Zoe to read her fortune, she thought?

Thompson, sensing a broken heart and a naive nature, quickly took advantage of the woman’s distress and drained her life savings. She convinced the Canadian that she’d never find love again unless she bought the psychic a 9.2 carat diamond ring.

She also convinced the victim to spend large sums of money on spells that would vanquish demons, as well as on building a “golden pyramid” that would protect her and her loved ones from dying. Needless to say, the golden pyramid was entirely fictitious.

While Thompson is currently awaiting sentencing, Nygaard has already helped put a number of fraudulent fortune-tellers behind bars. By his count, he has helped successfully prosecute 30 psychics and recovered more than $3.5m for his clients to date.

Despite his track record, Nygaard still finds it difficult to get law enforcement to take clairvoyant chicanery seriously. While he says he “received excellent cooperation from a NYPD detective, in regard to this particular case”, all too often the police tend to treat psychic fraud like a joke.

However, Nygaard stresses, psychics conning desperate people out of large amounts of money is a serious problem. “The prevalence with which these psychic scams are occurring, and the exorbitant amounts of money of which vulnerable people are being defrauded, not only in NYC but all over the USA, is absolutely astonishing,” Nygaard told the Guardian. “Police and prosecutors need to wake up [and] realize that these self-proclaimed psychics are often part of organized criminal enterprises.”


Arwa Mahdawi in New York

The GuardianTramp

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