The Psychic Conman: How One Man Scammed Millions

Last Updated: June 21, 2024By

The Psychic Conman: How One Man Scammed Millions


You won’t believe the audacity of this guy. Patrice Runner, a Canadian with French ties, managed to swindle over $175 million from people in the US and Canada through a massive scam involving fake psychic letters. Let’s dive into this wild story and see how he got caught.

The Big Scam

Patrice Runner, 57, played a long con, convincing people he had psychic powers through letters that seemed super personalized. The letters, supposedly from the famous French psychic Maria Duval, promised readers incredible wealth and happiness if they just paid a small fee for a “clairvoyant forecast.” Sounds like a dream, right? Except it was all fake.

These letters weren’t just any letters—they were handwritten in cursive, giving them a personal touch. But the truth was, they were mass-produced and sent to millions, targeting mostly elderly and vulnerable folks. Once someone sent money, they’d get bombarded with more letters asking for more cash, along with requests for personal items like hair or palm prints for “additional rituals.”

Caught Red-Handed

Runner wasn’t new to this game. He’d been convicted in Canada twice before for similar scams. Back in 1991, he was fined over $31,000 for falsely advertising a psychic who could supposedly predict lottery numbers. Then, in 2000, another one of his companies got hit with a $362,000 fine for misleading ads about weight-loss products.


Despite these run-ins with the law, Runner kept at it. His companies sent out an estimated 56 million letters over 20 years, from 1994 to 2014. This relentless mail campaign raked in a staggering $175 million from nearly 1.5 million people across North America.

The High Life and the Downfall

Runner lived the high life for a while, hopping between Switzerland, France, the Netherlands, Costa Rica, and Spain. He even set up shell companies in Canada and Hong Kong to hide his tracks. But in 2014, US authorities started closing in. They investigated for two years and finally shut down the operation in 2016. After a lengthy extradition process, Runner was arrested in Ibiza in December 2020 and flown to New York.

The Verdict

In June, a jury found Runner guilty on multiple counts of mail fraud, wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit money laundering. On Monday, a New York judge handed him a 10-year prison sentence. Chris Nielsen, a top US Postal Inspection Service official, called it a fitting punishment for someone who preyed on millions of vulnerable Americans.

Runner’s Defense

Runner has always maintained his innocence, claiming he never crossed legal lines with his mail business. “Maybe it’s not moral, maybe it’s bullshit,” he said in an interview, “But it doesn’t mean it’s fraud.” He believed that if people weren’t happy with his service, they would have asked for their money back.

But the courts didn’t buy his defense. His long history of running scams and the sheer scale of his latest fraud sealed his fate.

The Letters

So, how did he manage to pull it off for so long? The letters, printed in Canada and mailed from Albany, New York, were incredibly convincing. They played on the hopes and fears of people, promising them everything they ever wanted if they just sent a little money. It was a classic scam, but on a massive scale.

Lessons Learned

This whole saga is a reminder to be skeptical of too-good-to-be-true offers, especially those that come out of nowhere. If someone promises you the world for a small fee, it’s probably a scam.

So next time you get a letter from a supposed psychic, remember Patrice Runner and his decade-long scam. It’s a wild world out there—stay sharp!

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