Would You Hand Over $27K to a Psychic?

Act 2: People claim they've been convinced by psychics to give them thousands of dollars in cash or property.
7:19 | 04/18/14

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Transcript for Would You Hand Over $27K to a Psychic?
Get ready for another takedown. We all know someone who lost a job. Who makes money off of them? A fortune teller. "20/20" is right there as their own fortunes change. Here's John Quinones. The first time I went in, it ran me $40. About a month after, she asked for $30,000. How much money did you give her? $27,000. $950,000. The amount of money is astronomical. Reporter: Nygaard is a former New York cop turned private investigator with a peculiar niche. He's obsessed with helping people who say they've been conned by psychics. A group much larger than anyone wants to admit. Lawyers, professional athletes, college professors. People call me from all walks of life. This sounds outlandish. Why do people fall for it? People are going through a very difficult time in their life, and they're very vulnerable. I would like to think that, being an intelligent human being, that this could have never happened to me, and it did. Reporter: Debra saalfield was in a bad place. She'd lost her job, she'd lost her boyfriend, and was on the verge of just losing it, period. Debra needed help, but instead of going to a therapist, a minister, or even a yogi, she found herself going here -- a a storefront in New York City. The psychic's name is Sylvia Mitchell, a 39-year old mystic from mystic, Connecticut. Charming? Very charming, comforting. Very pretty, dressed nicely. Reporter: Debra selects from the psychic's menu and ponies up $75. They tell you that they know that they can help you, but they have to do a deeper Reading. The next amount is $1,000. They would meet only three times, but Mitchell tells Debra the root of her problem is she's too attached to money. The psychic is more than happy to try and break that attachment. As an exercise in trust, the fortune teller wants Debra to write out a check for $27,000. It is to be held and returned at a later date, or so she is told. But when she said "Give me $27,000," didn't the light go off in the head? Being in a very vulnerable place, I acquiesced. Reporter: You wrote the check. Made a huge mistake. Reporter: She's not the only one to make a mistake. The psychic industry is estimated to bring in about $2 billion to $3 billion dollars. Reporter: Billion. Billion, with a B. Reporter: And the P.I. Says some of those rundown psychic shops storefronts are actually cash cows. They don't look like much from the outside. The same people that you see that, are shabbily dressed, sitting in a little storefront, are the same people that when I track them, and follow them, they're living in a million dollar house, on the intercoastal in Florida. And they're driving around in a maserati, or a lamborghini, or a ferrari. Reporter: And that makes Nygaard a busy man. We're following him as he criss-crosses the country working cases in Florida, California and New York simultaneously. The stories are sensational, the dollar figures staggering. Take the case of actor Bryan James, currently starring on Hollywood's walk of shame. Two yeardrove by this psychic shop in the valley. He was searching for answers about a romantic interest and decided to stop in. I was completely gullible. I was completely sucked in. Reporter: Bryan is so intrigued by his first encounter with psychic April lee, he returns again and again. A bond forms. The two share meals and spend holidays together. In fact, Bryan is spending all his free time with the psychic and virtually none with his family. I'm mad at the psychic for how she manipulated my son. Reporter: Over the months to follow, Bryan says he is groomed to do whatever April lee asks. He's instructed to collect random items. Getting pennies, getting a wrapping them up. Reporter: Nygaard says the tasks are designed to let a psychic gauge how much control she has over her customer. Then Bryan hears that she has reached out to his love interest, and the feelings are mutual. She's pretending to send me text messages from that person, pretending to give me gifts from that person. But there's a price for love, and the psychic begins asking Bryan to foot the bill. When he doesn't have it, the psychic allegedly comes up with a scheme to get the money through Brian's mom Mary. Brian dupes his mother into believing the money will for used for acting lessons and a high powered Hollywood agent. You could hear the urgency in his voice, like, I need it now, like he was petrified, and I just did it. Reporter: And that's how Mary James goes from doting mother to a personal atm. It started with $10,000, $20,000, $15,000, and then it grew. We're talking fifty. Or we're talking a hundred. Reporter: Mary is not a wealthy woman. The money she's handing over to Brian, who, in turn is handing over to April lee, is coming from her retirement account. She gives and gives for nearly two years, until she's drained dry. $950,000. It's my retirement. It's gone. According to Brian, the psychic had always maintained his story would have a happy ending. She promised he would end up with the love of his life, be a Hollywood star, and -- She always stressed that everything that I did, that I would be getting the money back. Nearly two years later, none of it has happened. Wracked with guilt and shame, he confesses. He said, "I finally need to tell you." "All the money went to a psychic." And it's really hard to process it, but it's -- it's the truth. Reporter: Nygaard says the vulnerable are the easiest victims. Remember Debra saalfield and the check for $27,000? I had taken out a credit line on my home, because I was recently divorced and needed emergency money. Reporter: And now she had it. She did. Reporter: She was that good, that convincing. She's really good. Reporter: Saalfield finally breaks free of the psychic's hold on her. She races to her bank. By the time I'd gone to my bank to cancel the check, the, the funds were already gone. Reporter: Mitchell disappears from the city. Now, many would have given up and written off the experience as an expensive lesson. But not Debra, and not Bryan. Both hire bob Nygaard to bring their psychics to justice. Usually they come to me once they've hit rock bottom.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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