A cop-turned-P.I. reverses the fortunes of fraudulent psychics.
Imagine this: You’re suffering a loss, be it a recently deceased loved one, a job, a marriage. You’re in a vulnerable position, and you seek the guidance of a storefront psychic.
The psychic’s fee is nominal at first—usually $20 to $50—but she sees darkness around you. Money is the root of all evil, she says: You need to withdraw $10,000 and place it under your bed along with a grapefruit, which will consume the negative energy associated with all that tarnished cash.
The psychic tells you to bring the grapefruit into her office a couple of days later, concealed in a brown paper bag. With a magician’s sleight of hand, she’s already swapped her own grapefruit without you realizing it. She cuts it open, and small black snakes slither from its core. Your money is tainted, she says: Bring me the $10,000, and I will cleanse it for you.
In our right minds, it’s easy to notice a scam here: That money will never be re-turned. In many cases, the “fees” to remove a curse increase, into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, draining the bank accounts and livelihoods of vulnerable victims. And it’s been happening for decades, with few legal or criminal ramifications against the perpetrator, because after all: Aren’t the “marks” giving away their money willingly?
“Prosecutors get concerned that they have to prove whether this person is psychic or not,” says Bob Nygaard, a Boca-based private investigator who specializes in psychic fraud. “It’s not what this is about. It’s simple theft. It’s taking money by false promises.”
An erstwhile New York City police officer, Nygaard has been busting fraudulent psychics and fortune-tellers, among other flim-flam artists and confidence schemers, since 2007, when he acquired his P.I. license.
The first case he took was that of Gina Marks, whose notorious family of “psychics” was finally convicted of federal fraud crimes in 2013. At the time, Nygaard’s work led to grand theft charges leveled against Gina to the tune of $65,000—a landmark in prosecuting psychic scammers. He has since recovered more than $2 million for victims in a handful of high-profile cases locally and nationally.
“I’m not here to judge whether somebody has psychic ability or not,” Nygaard says. “I myself have used intuition in my police ca-reer to solve crimes. [But] I know the law, and I know how to apply theft statutes. … I can prove intent to steal, and I can show it by the unfolding of the scam.”
For more, pick up the November issue of Boca Raton magazine.