A Brooklyn man operating under various fictitious identities–including the International Astrology Foundation, Steve Waters, and “Zoran”–has been ordered by an Iowa judge to pay $14,000 in refunds to the 78 elderly Iowans he conned into paying for his “psychic” services, the Brooklyn Eagle reports. The Borough Park resident, whose real name is Joseph Meisels, has also been slapped with a $20,000 fine under provisions of the Consumer Fraud Act.
Meisels’ dastardly scheme involved sending hundreds of mailings, coupons, and order forms to vulnerable Midwesterners, in which he claimed that for fees of $50, $70, or $100, he’d cure their troubles. His professed “psychic powers” included contact with aliens and one Professor Damon Zakakura, “Master of the Spirit Realm;” “luck field” and karma clearing; as well as possession of a “very special spiritual device[,] one you have never heard of or read about.” This device, Meisels claimed, had been used by the likes of Babylonian conqueror Nebuchadnezzar, Napoleon, George Washington, and Andrew Carnegie. “The bottom line is that I promise you it works,” he wrote. Said device was actually a sheet of paper printed with a trippy optical illusion and 21 Norse runes.
One mailing Meisels sent under the guise of Steve Waters read:
Recently, at a secretly held psychic conference, during a lecture I was giving on the subject of the most difficult, most intractable cases, yours came up. Without uttering a single word I know your troubles, what you have been through, and what you are still forced to put up with and endure, forced to suffer from, till today.
Waters promised to “unleash the greatest super weapon in my psychic arsenal in your behalf.”
“These mailings were outrageous and outlandish in their deceptive claims and promises from supposed clairvoyants, astrologers and even extraterrestrials,” Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller said. “Sadly, these predatory mailings found their way to the mailboxes of many elderly Iowans, bilking one 77-year-old Iowa woman out of more than $1,500 in 2014 alone. By cynically promising to make things better for these too-trusting Iowans, the defendants made things decidedly worse by stripping them of limited resources.”
Despite the obvious freakishness of Meisels’ claims, his attorney, Aaron Twersky, says the International Astrology Foundation is legit, and that “none of the mailings are deceptive.” In a comment to the Brooklyn Eagle, the IAF wrote:
International Astrology Foundation is a legitimate business providing entertainment and leisure, through fiction and obvious fantasy, for those who choose to subscribe to its mailings. None of the mailings are deceptive or misleading, and are no different than any cartoon or comic book…. Every subscriber is promised a money-back guarantee should he or she so choose. While the Iowa Attorney General’s claims are overreaching, the consent judgment is merely another opportunity for IAF to stand behind its promise to offer money back to those subscribers not completely satisfied.
It’s one of just a few recent cautionary tales of con artists posing as psychics bilking the gullible out of insane sums of money. Earlier this month, one lovelorn Brooklyn man helped put a Times Square fortune teller in jail after she fleeced him for $713,975.
Iowa Assistant Attorney General Steve St. Clair warns that Meisels is most likely scamming vulnerable citizens across the country and that New York State officials aren’t yet on his case, so beware, and maybe give your midwestern grandma a call.
[via The Brooklyn Eagle]