Transcript for Private Investigator Helps Victims of Alleged Psychic Fraud
Once again, John Quinones. Reporter: Like so many people who say they are victims of psychic fraud, Brian James first turned to police for help. Good luck with that. They go in and say, "I was ripped off by a fortune teller, a psychic." The first thing the cop does is roll their eyes, and say, "You gotta be kidding me." People, even watching this, tonight, will say, "Why is it a crime?" If these people were gullible enough -- The number one answer, when people walk into a police station is, it's a civil matter. And they're told, "There's the door." Reporter: Again, no sympathy from police. And that's when people call Nygaard. His conversation with cops often goes like this. I say, listen, when this person first came in, you told them it was a civil matter. You know what? I did your job for 21 years and I know differently. It's a criminal matter. Reporter: That's exactly what Nygaard told New York authorities after one of his clients was ripped off by psychic Betty vlado. Vlado somehow convinced her victim to hand over 50 grand including $14,000 for this crystal which she claimed had healing powers. Vlado was convicted of grand larceny. But the shame of getting duped often leaves vantims wing to crawl under a rock. It's not about psychic It's about simple theft. It's about applying the law to theft. Bob Nygaard is, in my opinion, an American hero. Reporter: Debra saalfield hired bob Nygaard to put the kibosh on Sylvia Mitchell's fortune telling flim-flam. No small task. Mitchell is long gone from the plush greenwich village shop. It takes seven months, but with the help of an informant, Nygaard tracks her to Connecticut, where Mitchell is arrested. It's Debra's chance to get all her money back. But then, a stunning twist. The defense offered to give you your money back. They did. I turned it down. You could have had all your $27,000 back and walked away. That's true. Why not? Because there was another victim involved in the case, and I didn't want to let the other victim down by not testifying. Reporter: If the psychic walks, Debra is out thousands of dollars. It is a huge gamble, says Florida's state attorney Dave aronberg. These cases are difficult to prove. A jury wonders, how could anyone be fooled by this? Is there a sense, even among law enforcement, that these victims brought it upon themselves? It's my experience that jurors will think that way. Reporter: But in Debra's case, the jurors do believe her. Yes, the sad expression on Sylvia Mitchell's face indicates maybe she can see the future. Guilty. Convicted of grand larceny, Mitchell is sentenced to 5 to 15 years in prison. She must also pay restitution to her victims. There's other victims that have lost far more than I have, and they've lost not only their money, they've lost their jobs, they've lost their integrity. They've lost their self-esteem. That's not easy to get back. Reporter: The poster boy for low self-esteem might well be Bryan James, who ruined his mother financially with his decision to repeatedly see a psychic. Remember now. She's out nearly a million dollars. I want nothing more than my mom to be paid back. Reporter: Nygaard says if Mary James is ever going to see a dime of her money back, the psychic, April lee, will first need to be arrested. But there is a problem. The LAPD is not interested in taking the case. Brian went to the LAPD. He walked in and tried to report the crime and an officer said to him, "Well, I've got advice for you. Don't ever go see a psychic again." Always elusive, April lee is finally tracked down. She's driving in style in a brand new Mercedes. We spot her again in a theme park waiting to have lunch. Nygaard has Bryan reach out to April. The psychic wants an additional $511,000 to continue removing that curse that supposedly swirls around Brian. These people, they financially exploit somebody under the guise of offering them assistance. Reporter: Nygaard still needs help from law enforcement. He finds it at the d.a.'s office in Santa Clara county. Our office considers this crime to be treacherous. Reporter: It's time to play sting the psychic. The operation will be spearheaded by veteran investigator Dennis Brookins. My job as a criminal investigator is to help victims. My job is not to turn victims away. Reporter: A script is written. The plot is laid out. And the young actor will now have the lead role in this very personal drama. Bryan calls April and says he has the money. The transfer of more than half a million dollars is supposed to take place inside an escrow office in San Jose. So I came up with a plan that his mother was going to sell a piece of property, and obtain the money because of the sale. Reporter: But there's a snag. The defendant said she had to stay out in the parking lot and she was going to mediate. Reporter: Brian improvises. Emerging from the vehicle, he goes into the office alone. He says April and her husband, who is driving, think they are moments away from a huge pay day. Once I knew the victim was secure with other investigators inside the building, I instructed the arrest team to come in behind their vehicle and block it so they could not leave. Reporter: This video shows the moment April lee is arrested. April looked shocked. They had no idea they were gonna get arrested. They came to Santa Clara county for one reason only and that was greed. Reporter: Bail is set at half million dollars each. April's attorney says his client is innocent and calls this a civil matter. It was just really great to see Brian be able to turn the tables on the con artist. Bob Nygaard says he's recovered more than $2 million in cash and property for victims of psychic cons. But there's more to be done. He's currently working on ten new cases. So before you pay for a peek at your future, a word of warning from those still reeling from the recent past. If anybody is feeling vulnerable, down on their luck, needy, please, please don't go
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