25-year-old Bryan James made the decision to visit a psychic during a low point in his life. His emotional health was in bad shape, his love life was not the best, and his financial state definitely had him worried.
He noticed a bright neon sign outside of a psychic shop in the San Fernando Valley one day that read “Psychic Readings” and he decided to go in and check it out. That is where he met Michelle Morgan.
Morgan consulted James and told him that all of his problems stemmed from a curse he was carrying and that all he needed to do in order to get his life back on track was to let Morgan remove the curse. Unfortunately, this simple curse removal ended up costing James a fortune after all was said and done.
James began to realize that something was not right with this psychic and decided to hire a private investigator to look into the place. What the P.I discovered was shocking, but it was too late for James because he had already been scammed out of almost $1 million dollars in a period of two years’ time.
The “psychic” Morgan, whose name is actually April Lee, worked with her husband, Michael Johnson, to scam people, and thanks to the work of the P.I, they were both arrested and charged with attempted grand theft, extortion, and grand theft. They made bail and are now waiting their court date on Dec. 19 for a pretrial hearing.
James worked with the private investigator to arrange an arrest for Lee. He told Lee that he would pay her the remaining balance he owed her of $500,000 if she would go with him to his mothers’ house in San Jose so that his mother can give him that amount, since she had just sold her house. Lee agreed and went along, only to be confronted by police when they arrived at their destination.
Though Lee’s defense attorney, James. E. Silverstein refused to comment on the allegations, he did say that she maintains her innocence.
He simply said, “It’s not a crime to be a psychic.”
However, the prosecution is stating that regardless of what your job title is, stealing money from somebody IS a crime.
“You have to get away from thinking of it as proving or disproving spirits and curses and look at the fraud,” Cherie Boulard, who is the Deputy District Attorney for Santa Clara County, told the Los Angeles Daily News.
Bob Nygaard, the private investigator that James hired, is the one who assisted James in busting the fraudulent Lee along with her husband. Nygaard, who is from New York, stated that James was in financial, emotional, and relationship turmoil at the time of the first meeting.
“So it basically made him the perfect mark,” he told The Associated Press.
According to Nygaard, James had a romantic interest in a certain woman but he was told by Lee not to approach her until after the curse was lifted, otherwise the ‘curse removal work’ that she had done would not work and the woman would die.
Since Lee would not allow James to speak to his crush yet, she told him that she would contact the woman for him and be the “middle-man”, she even went so far as to send text messages to James from her mobile phone to his and stated that they were from his crush. One of the text messages she sent him said that she [his crush] could not wait until the curse was broken so that she could get together with him.
Since James was in such emotional distress, he believed everything Lee told him and continued to pay Lee for her “services”. Most of the money he used to pay Lee was taken from his mother’s retirement savings account. Nygaard said that he continued to do this until he became suspicious one day and decided to speak directly to his crush. When he asked her about the text messages, the woman said she did not know what he was talking about and had never sent him any messages, once he heard that, he went immediately to the police.
When he arrived to the police station and told the officer his story, the officer mocked James instead of helping him and told him that he was such a sucker for giving money to a psychic. That is when James decided to hire a private investigator to help him bring Lee down. He discovered Nygaard, a former policeman who had already helped other psychic scam victims recover tens of thousands of dollars from fraudulent psychics and decided to hire him.
Nygaard and Boulard are not surprised by the initial response James received from the police officer when he first reported the incident.
“It’s really common for law enforcement to see it as a civil matter and not criminal,” said Boulard to the Daily News. “They think, ‘Oh, well, they gave them the money voluntarily.”
She told the Daily News that she was more than happy to help James build a case against Lee because there are so many other victims who, unlike James, are too embarrassed to report the incident and go unheard.
Lee’s attorney stated that although there are a number of fraudulent psychics operating businesses, his client is not one of them.
“No matter which profession you deal with, there are always going to be really good folks and some folks that are, you know, they are criminals. But just because you’re a psychic doesn’t mean you’re a criminal,” he told the Associated Press.
He also said, “There are plenty of good people, good psychics, who help people.”
According to Nygaard, it is too early to tell whether James will recover any of the more than $925,000 back from the psychic and her husband, and that James and his mother are both financially devastated because of this event.
“Bryan is still emotionally fragile, but he’s doing a lot better now that the arrests are made,” said Nygaard.