CANADA, 19 April, 2024 Canadian fraudster Patrice Runner, convicted of orchestrating a colossal psychic mass-mailing fraud scheme that swindled over US$175 million from unsuspecting victims across North America, has been sentenced to 10 years in prison. The 57-year-old, holding dual citizenship with Canada and France, faced charges including conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering.

After a jury found Runner guilty in June, a New York judge delivered the sentence on Monday, bringing an end to a pursuit by US authorities that began in 2014. Chris Nielsen, the inspector in charge of the US Postal Inspection Service’s Philadelphia division, hailed the verdict as fitting justice, denouncing Runner’s exploitation of vulnerable individuals.

Runner’s fraudulent operation, masquerading as personalized communications from renowned French psychic Maria Duval, targeted millions of people, particularly elderly and susceptible individuals. The scam enticed recipients with promises of great wealth and happiness through psychic assistance, soliciting payments for “astral-clairvoyant forecasts.” Subsequent requests for additional fees, along with demands for personal items like locks of hair and palm prints, compounded the deceit.

Despite his conviction, Runner has maintained his innocence, arguing that his mail-order business, Infogest Direct Marketing, operated within legal bounds. His prior run-ins with Canadian authorities, however, tell a different story, with convictions in 1991 and 2000 for running deceptive schemes.

In an interview from a New York detention center, Runner reflected on the allure of his fraudulent enterprise, which spanned two decades and involved the dissemination of millions of letters, ultimately accumulating staggering profits. The scam’s intricate web of shell companies, coupled with Runner’s nomadic lifestyle across multiple countries, made detection and apprehension a challenging task for law enforcement.

The investigation into the scam, launched in 2014, culminated in its shutdown two years later. Runner’s arrest in Ibiza in December 2020, followed by extradition proceedings, eventually led to his trial and conviction. While Runner faces the consequences of his crimes, his victims, many of whom fell prey to false promises and financial exploitation, serve as a sobering reminder of the enduring impact of fraud.