Psychic, husband charged with ‘curse’ scam
Los Angeles • A professed psychic and her husband were charged after a man was bilked out of nearly $1 million, supposedly to break a curse that was keeping him from true love.
April Lee, 28, and Michael Johnson, 32, were arrested last month then freed on bail pending a Dec. 19 hearing in San Jose to answer charges of grand theft, attempted grand theft and extortion, the Los Angeles Daily News reported Wednesday. They must wear GPS monitors,
Calls to their Los Angeles business weren’t returned and there was no immediate word on whether they had obtained attorneys, the paper said.
A call to a phone number listed at their Tarzana business was answered Thursday night by a woman who told The Associated Press to stop calling her daughter and to call her attorney, then hung up.
Lee, using the name Michelle Morgan, is suspected of meeting the 25-year-old San Fernando Valley man when he went to her Tarzana business for a psychic reading in the fall of 2011.
"People who do this are always looking for victims who are going through career issues, health issues or love issues," Bob Nygaard, a private investigator the man later hired to get back his money, told the Daily News. "He had all three. So it basically made him the perfect mark."
The couple "convinced the victim ..., that various problems he was experiencing concerning these matters were the result of an alleged ‘curse,’" Nygaard said in an emailed statement to The Associated Press.
Lee claimed she had the power to lift the curse, Nygaard said.
The man borrowed money from his mother and family, handing the couple nearly $927,000 in two years, according to the criminal complaint.
"They isolated him from everyone he knew," Nygaard told the newspaper. "April would say something and Michael would swear to it, making everything seem real. They took him out to dinner on his birthday, he spent holiday meals with them. He really trusted them."
Eventually, Lee even sent the man text messages claiming to be from his love interest.
"She was texting him all these things. ‘Ooh baby, I can’t wait until we’re together. Xxoo.’ Stuff like that," Nygaard said.
The texts said that the two couldn’t speak directly because of the curse.
Eventually, Lee told the victim that she needed one final payment to completely remove the curse and unite him with the woman, Nygaard said in his statement.
The man eventually became suspicious and contacted Los Angeles police but was unsatisfied with the response and hired Nygaard, who along with a prosecutor in Santa Clara County hatched a sting operation.
The suspects flew with the man to San Jose last month, allegedly to receive the final payment in the form of proceeds from the sale of a home his mother owned. San Jose police arrested them on Nov. 13.
Cherie Boulard, a Santa Clara County prosecutor who is handling the case, said she was willing to help when Nygaard contacted her.
"A lot of people don’t come forward because they’re embarrassed, ashamed, scared," she told the Daily News. "But this is fraud and it’s a crime."