25-year-old Bryan James decided 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 worried him.
One day, he noticed a bright neon sign outside a shop in the San Fernando Valley that read ‘Psychic Readings.’ He decided to go in and check it out. That’s where he met Michelle Morgan.
Morgan consulted James and told him that all his problems stemmed from a curse he was carrying. She said all he needed to do to get his life back on track was let her remove the curse. Unfortunately, this simple curse removal cost James a fortune after all was said and done.
James began to realize that something was not right with this psychic. He decided to hire a private investigator to look into the shop. What the P.I discovered was shocking, but it was too late for James. He had already been scammed out of nearly $1 million in two years.
The “psychic’s” real name turned out to be April Lee. She and her husband, Michael Johnson, worked together to scam people.
Thanks to the work of the P.I, both were arrested and charged with attempted grand theft, extortion, and grand theft. They made bail and are now waiting for their court date on Dec. 19 for a pretrial hearing.
Victim And Private Investigator Work Together For Arrest
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. Lee agreed and went along, only to be confronted by police when they arrived at their destination.
Though Lee’s 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 states that regardless of your job title, 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,” said Cherie Boulard, the Deputy District Attorney for Santa Clara County.
Bob Nygaard is the P.I 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 particular woman. However, the scamming psychic told him not to approach her until she lifted the curse. Otherwise, the ‘curse removal work’ that she had done would not work, and the crush would die.
Conning Psychic Went Above And Beyond To Fool Victim
Since Lee wouldn’t allow James to speak to his crush yet, she told him that she would contact the woman for him. She pretended to be the “middle-man” for him. She even went so far as to send text messages to James pretending 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 be with him. Since James was in such emotional distress, he believed everything Lee told him and kept paying Lee for her “services.”
Most of the money James 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 James asked her about the text messages, the woman said she did not know what he was talking about. She said she had never seen or sent him any messages. Once he heard that, he went immediately to the police.
When he arrived at the police station and told an officer his story, the officer mocked him instead of helping. He told him he was a sucker for giving money to a psychic. It was then that James decided to hire a private investigator to help him bring Lee down.
He discovered Nygaard, a former policeman who had helped other psychic scam victims recover tens of thousands from fraudulent psychics. He sounded perfect for the job so he decided to hire him.
Laughter And Mockery Not Uncommon
Nygaard and Boulard are not surprised by James’s initial response 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,” Boulard told 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. She felt there are many other victims who, unlike James, are too embarrassed to report the incident. Because of their embarrassment, they go unheard and the thieves are never stopped.
Lee’s attorney stated that although several fraudulent psychics operate 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’s too early to tell whether James will recover any of the $925,000 back. He and his mother are both financially devastated because of this event. “Bryan is still emotionally fragile, but he’s doing a lot better now since the arrests,” said Nygaard.