It was basically impossible for you to not have heard or seen a psychic Miss Cleo commercial if you turned on a television in the late 90’s/early 2000’s. Ask anyone old enough to have seen her commercials and they can tell you how familiar they are with her trademark accent. It is interesting to me that before the FBI shut down the fraudulent business eventually, there was actually a junior Court TV reporter who discovered the scam first.
Matt Bean was fresh out of journalism school and was an enthusiastic rookie reporter when Miss Cleo was at the peak of her very successful psychic network career. Miss Cleo died in July of this year of colon cancer at the age of 53.
Bean was suspicious of the business from day one and decided to investigate it on his own. During his investigation, Bean- who is now employed by Time Inc.- received a tip that the psychics in this ring were all going off of a prewritten script during the readings instead of giving genuine readings.
Bean was able to get his hands on one of these scripts and decided to call the network to get an over the phone reading. He recorded his reading, which low and behold, happened to match the script he had 100 percent word-for-word. This confirmed to him that the psychic network was a scam, as he had believed all along.
“That entire company and all the promises they were advertising were built on lies,” Bean said.
“It became apparent that she was the front person for this scandalous organization that was trying to harvest money from people who were very gullible or who were in a bad situation.”
A wealthy businessman from South Florida named Steven Feder and his cousin, Peter Stolz, built the fraudulent network from the ground up. The two men then discovered Miss Cleo, real name Youree Cleomili, and hired her in the hopes of turning the network into a multi-million-dollar business, which actually happened.
The FBI launched their own investigation into the company after Bean’s discovery and they ended up shutting it down in 2002.
Bean sat down with Miss Cleo months after the network was exposed for an interview, asking her about her role in the network and the huge scam.
“She was just very gracious,” Bean recalls. “Her dogs were a big love for her, and she was just trying to focus on living her life. She had sort of a holistic outlook on the world and she did believe she had a gift.”
Cleomili was still giving private readings in the final years of her life and would charge her clients up to $100 to speak to them either in person or by phone, regardless of the fact that she had been exposed as a fraud in the past.