Key players charged in $200 million psychic mail fraud case

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(CNN)Two people have pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud for their roles in one of the biggest consumer scams in history, according to court documents unsealed this week. 

Canadian citizens Maria Thanos and Philip Lett managed the day-to-day operations of  Infogest Direct Marketing, according to the documents. Previous government filings show that this Canadian company used letters allegedly written by French clairvoyant Maria Duval to prey on the sick and elderly. Infogest ran the North American arm of the scam, raking in more than $200 million from more than 1.4 million victims in the United States and Canada.   
    Their alleged boss, who the government says was the leader of Infogest, has also been charged. Patrice Runner faces 18 counts of mail and wire fraud and  conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering. Court records show that Runner's arrest warrant was provided to both Interpol and authorities in Spain, where the Department of Justice says he was arrested in December. Social media suggests he lives in Ibiza, Spain, and the Spanish government is now considering an extradition request by the United States, according to the DOJ. 
    It is unclear whether Runner has entered a plea, and he has not yet had a US court appearance. His attorney says Runner "is contesting the validity of any criminal accusation that might be held against him by any authority whatsoever."
    Read about the psychic and the scam

    After two years investigating one of history's longest-running frauds, CNN's Blake Ellis and Melanie Hicken finally met its central figure: psychic Maria Duval. What did she have to say?

    The criminal charges are the first brought by the US government against any of the scam's key players. Many other perpetrators -- including some of the original masterminds -- remain at large around the world.   
    A long list of government agencies have spent decades trying to end the scam, and the US government finally shut it down for good in the United States in 2016. As part of a settlement, Infogest, Thanos, Lett and others were barred from sending the letters on US soil. But at the time, the company and employees did not admit to any wrongdoing. 
    According to the US government allegations, Runner was actively running Infogest from behind the scenes and used a variety of shell companies to hide his involvement as he profited from it while living in Canada, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Costa Rica, France and Spain. Documents say money from the scheme was transferred to bank accounts controlled by Runner and others in places like Switzerland and Liechtenstein. 

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    Thanos  and Lett each face up to 20 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines, and have not yet been sentenced. Their attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 
    Runner could face up to 20 years in prison for each of the 18 counts against him, as well as millions in fines, if successfully extradited to the United States and found guilty of the charges. 
    Using the name and image of Duval, along with that of another French psychic named Patrick Guerin, letters were sent to people all over the world promising that her psychic guidance and talismans could turn their lives around. All they needed to do was send money.  
    At Infogest, Lett and Thanos worked to obscure the letters' true origins -- sending them zigzagging around North America before they landed in victims' mailboxes. The executives, according to court filings, also purchased and swapped lists of possible victims, handled  the writing and proofreading  of the letters, chose the cheap trinkets to be sent in exchange for payments and ensured that new letters continued to bombard the elderly victims sending in their money.   
    A CNN investigation in 2016 found that the hoax had been perpetrated by a massive business network, which had kept the scheme alive by exporting it around the world to players like the Infogest executives charged with fraud. One of the biggest discoveries in CNN's investigation was that Duval was indeed a real person and not a f