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Court TV

Ex-'Miami Vice' star wins first round against psychic network

By Matt Bean
Court TV

(Court TV) -- He didn't have to chase down Colombian drug runners, bust a diamond-smuggling ring, or catch a bribe-taking politician in the act, but former "Miami Vice" star Philip Michael Thomas scored a big takedown Wednesday -- this time in the courts.

Thomas, who played the pastel-clad Detective Ricardo Tubbs on the TV police drama from 1984 to 1989, was awarded $2.3 million by a New York arbitrator who ruled that a psychic network the actor represented in the late 1990s had violated his contract.

"He feels very used. This decision validates his claims," said Madison McClellan, a lawyer for Thomas. "He feels vindicated."

Traffix, Inc., a communications company specializing in online gambling, has 30 days to pay Thomas $1.48 million for improperly using his name and image on its infomercials, and an additional $780,000 in interest.

According to McClellan, the arbitration victory clears the way for Thomas to proceed with a civil suit against his former employer charging fraud and tortious interference. "It's kind of a double win for us," noted the lawyer, adding that the civil suit will allow his client to seek punitive damages.

The decision by the American Arbitration Association came after eight years of legal wranglings with the Traffix, which ran infomercials for a telephone psychic service much like those featuring Miss Cleo, a supposed soothsayer now being sued for fraud.

But the link between Thomas and Miss Cleo is more than subject: Miss Cleo took Thomas' place as spokesperson for South Florida Businessman Larry Feder's psychic empire.

Thomas began his relationship with Feder's companies in 1994, signing a contract with one of Feder's companies, New Lauderdale, to represent the Psychic Reader's Network, according to McClellan. New Lauderdale was acquired by Quintel, another company Feder was heavily involved with, in 1996.

Along with the company's assets, Quintel--which changed its name to Traffix, Inc. in 2000 after investigations into its business practices -- inherited its liabilities.

Though Feder severed business ties with Quintel in 1999, the businessman isn't in the clear yet with Thomas, says McClellan, and has enough problems with his current psychic enterprise as well.

Over the past year, Feder, who controls 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.

As a 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.




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