Embattled psychic hot line owner puts mansion up for sale
(Court TV) -- The House That Cleo Built is now up for grabs.
The posh waterfront mansion owned by businessman Steven Feder, who has made millions on a telephone psychic business helmed by a would-be shaman named Miss Cleo, is on the block for the low, low price of $8.9 million.
The five-bedroom, seven-bath waterfront property , located in the exclusive Howard Beach section of Isla Bahia in Fort Lauderdale, is replete with marble and glass, and has room in back for an 80-foot yacht with access to the Intra-coastal Waterway.
Add to that a wetbar, central vacuum system, a three-car garage and a swimming pool, it's hard to see why anyone would want to move.
"This house is absolutely spectacular," said Beth Beauchamp, the Fort Lauderdale realtor shopping the property around.
So why would the owner, who Beauchamp says plans to move to California, want to leave all this luxury behind?
During the past year, Feder, who owns a number of Fort Lauderdale-based businesses, including those behind the "Mind and Spirit Psychic Network," has been besieged by consumer protection boards and attorneys general from around the country claiming his telephone psychic business is bilking customers of millions of dollars. The Fort Lauderdale businessman, who denies the allegations, was unavailable for comment.
The pressure may have given him reason to leave his house at 14 Isla Bahia Drive, the same address Feder lists on business incorporation documents filed with the state of Florida.
Access Resource Services and Psychic Readers Network, the two companies through which Feder and partner Peter Stolz run their phone psychic empire, are currently facing suits from the Federal Trade Commission and the state of Florida. Twelve states in all have engaged in some sort of action against the companies, citing complaints over aggressive billing practices to misleading advertising.
As a Courttv.com special report demonstrated, some of the psychics staffing the call-in lines, which charge $5.00 per minute, simply used scripts instead of real tarot cards. And Miss Cleo, whom Feder touted as a bona fide Jamaican shaman, was recently found to have been born in California, not the Caribbean.
Sean Moynihan, the New York attorney heading up the defense of the embattled psychic syndicate, said this was the first he'd heard that his client was selling his house.
The lawyer said he'd been busy fending off the "erroneous charges" brought by states "where they're only looking for press releases."
According to Beauchamp, Feder's mansion was a "plain, ordinary Mediterranean" until the owner began extensive renovations in 1997 that lasted a year and a half.
"He tore the whole thing apart," Beauchamp said. "He made a lot of changes."
The renovations, which included the installation of a screening room with a dozen plush leather recliners and a movie screen, continued as Feder's business with Miss Cleo took off in 1998.
All the construction paid off. Feder's house was once valued at $3.6 million, according to Florida property records. Still, at only $8.9 million, it could be a steal—the house across the street, Beauchamp says, is worth $25 million, and one down the block just sold for $16.5 million.
Beauchamp's Web site includes 360-degree multimedia views of the spacious house, and estimates that even with a 20 percent down-payment, the monthly mortgage would still be more than $47,000.
The New York State Consumer Protection Board estimated that Feder and partner Stolz generate more than $400 million yearly from their psychic hot line.
According to California property records, Feder paid $1.75 million for a decidedly less glamorous home in the Hollywood Hills above Los Angeles' Sunset Strip in December, 1999.
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