When Bryan James went to visit a psychic named April Lee, he never suspected that she would rip him off so badly.
“I never thought I would be somebody that would be susceptible to seeing a psychic,” he told ABC News’ 20/20 in an interview. “I was very vulnerable at the time. And I basically wanted to find the answers.”
James was hoping to get relationship and career advice; being that he was a struggling actor, he had a lot of questions he wanted advice on. Shortly after speaking with the psychic, she managed to make him believe that he was cursed and that only she could remove it from his life so that he can go on to be successful. Of course she wanted to charge a hefty amount for this “service” as well.
“She had told me that there was a problem, but that she knew how to fix it,” James recalls. “About a month after meeting her, she asked for about $30,000. She said that it was to go back in time to fix the curse and that I would get the money back.”
Of course James never received his money back though, and was instead taken advantage of over and over. Over the course of two years, he ended up paying the fraudulent psychic over $900,000 before he realized that he was being scammed. When he learned that he was not getting anywhere with her, he decided to speak to the police and get their help.
The local police (Los Angeles Police Department) however, did not want anything to do with his complaint. They told him that his case was more a civil versus criminal case and that they could not help him.
After hearing that, James decided that he needed to take it upon himself to get this wrong righted. He hired a private investigator named Bob Nygaard because he specializes in cases like James’- cases where people are scammed out of thousands of dollars (or property) by fake and fraudulent psychics.
“These people, they financially exploit somebody under the guise of offering them assistance,” said Nygaard.
Nygaard has helped many other customers besides James get some, if not all, of their money back from fraudulent psychics in his years as a private investigator.
“It’s not about psychic ability,” he says. “It’s about simple theft. It’s about applying law to theft.”
Nygaard is all to familiar with the fact that police departments turn people away when they hear that their case has to do with psychic fraud.
That is why he decided to start working in that field and helping those customers who need him the most. He spends a lot of time locating the scamming psychics and catching them red-handed before he then turns them over to law enforcement with proof of what they did wrong.
“What I do is I bring it to them wrapped in a bow. I say ‘Listen, when this person first came in, you told them it was a civil matter,” he says. “You know what? I know differently. It’s a criminal matter.”
Nygaard states that ever since he started helping psychic scam victims, he has recouped over $2 million worth of cash and property back to them.
“Bob Nygaard is an American hero,” says a different customer of his, a woman named Debra Saalfield. She also decided to hire him after being scammed out of thousands of dollars by a psychic named Sylvia Mitchell, who we have previously written about here due to scamming other people.
Nygaard tracked Mitchell down in Connecticut and she was arrested shortly after. In court, the defense team offered to return the whole $27,000 that was stolen from her back to her but she refused the offer. She insisted that they go to trial because if she (Saalfield) did not testify, other victims would not be able to retrieve their money.
“There are other victims that have lost far more than I have,” says Saalfield. “They’ve lost not only their money. They’ve lost their jobs. They’ve lost their integrity. They’ve lost their self-esteem. That’s not easy to get back.”
“These cases are difficult to prove. A jury wonders how could anyone be fooled by this,” says Dave Aronberg, state attorney for Florida.
Fortunately for Saalfield, the jury did believe her case. They sentenced Mitchell to anywhere from 2 to 15 years in prison, and she was ordered to pay back the money that she took from her.
James’ case involved a lot more lost money than Saalfield’s case. He even gave the scamming psychic a large chunk of money at one point- $511,000- so that she could keep on with the process of removing his supposed curse.
Even though the police were less than helpful to James, Nygaard still required their assistance to bust Lee. Luck was on his side when he went to the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office to speak with them. It was at this time that Nygaard met Dennis Brookins, the Office Investigator for Santa Clara County D.A.
Once Nygaard filled Brookins in on what was going on, Brookins became the leader of the operation that would eventually arrest Lee.
“My job as a criminal investigator is to help victims,” said Brookins. “My job is not to turn victims away.”
With Brookins on their side, Nygaard and James began to work on a plan that would catch Lee in the act of scamming James. They worked out a plan which involved James calling Lee and telling her that he had the money she had requested, but that the only way he could give it to her was if she came down to San Jose, California to pick it up.
“I came up with a plan that his mother was going to sell a piece of property,” says Brookins. “James would obtain the money because of the sale.”
While Brookins and his team were observing from a safe distance, James met up with Lee, as well as Lee’s husband, at an escrow office so that they could “transfer the money to her bank account”.
After it was obvious that Lee was determined to go through with the money transfer and James went into the office alone, Brookins’ team surrounded Lee’s car and arrested her and her husband on the spot.
There was a half a million-dollar bail set for both Lee and her husband each. When also interviewed by 20/20, Lee’s defense attorney maintained her innocence, insisting that it was a civil matter, not a criminal one.
Nygaard felt really good about being able to put another successful arrest of a psychic fraud under his belt. “It was really great to see Brian be able to turn the tables on the con artist,” he told 20/20.
Nygaard is so passionate about this cause that he is constantly taking on new cases. At the moment, he is working on 10 separate cases.
“People are very embarrassed by this. They say, ‘How could I have fallen for this?’” he says.
“But it doesn’t matter if you’re a college professor. It doesn’t matter if you’re a lawyer. It doesn’t matter if you’re a doctor. You’re on their territory. And they know how to take advantage of that.”
While it is unfortunate that police officials often do not want to get involved in psychic scam cases, it is good to know that there are people like Nygaard that are specifically out to get fraudulent psychic readers. I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again- there is no such thing as a curse! If anyone ever tries to tell you otherwise, it is time to stop listening to them and move on. For every fake psychic out there, there are plenty more genuine, authentic psychics, such as the ones that I have personally reviewed here. All of the psychics reviewed here have been tried and tested by an overwhelming number of customers and have years of experience in the field, helping everyday people get answers to their biggest questions.