The occult has always been a subject of fascination for people. As such, there are a lot of supposed occultists out there capitalizing on such fascination, promising to give any willing customer a glimpse at the hidden mechanics of the universe. Unfortunately, they’re more likely to lift a few bucks from your wallet than they are the veil between worlds.
One man from Russia learned a rather harsh lesson in trusting your common sense, when he found himself subjected to the deception of a supposed spiritualist group.
Reaching out in an effort to be reunited with his wife, the man known only as M.E.A. in court documents was swindled into giving up some very dear sums of money.
Fixing a breakup
M.E.A. was a man suffering the separation pangs of a breakup, having been left by his wife in August of 2017. Distraught and missing his partner, he was intrigued when, while watching TV one evening, he saw a commercial that could have been the solution to his problems.
A group called Sixth Sense were claiming that, among the other services they offered, they were capable of reuniting estranged couples with one another. M.E.A.’s interest had been thoroughly piqued.
M.E.A. was incredibly excited to find out whether Sixth Sense would actually be able to win him back his wife, and set about contacting them right away. He called the group, who immediately confirmed that they would be able to fulfill his request.
They said that he should come in to work out a contract with them. Going in to meet with the company’s chairman, M.E.A. signed a contract with Sixth Sense that promised they would use ‘magic knowledge’ to return his wife to him.
After a while, however, M.E.A. started to get a little suspicious of Sixth Sense. They had promised that his wife would return to him without fail, yet he had not heard so much as a peep from her or the spiritualist group.
When he tried to contact them, they were evasive and non-committal regarding their attempts to get his wife back. M.E.A. was becoming more and more convinced that he had simply been scammed by these people.
Believing that he had been lied to, M.E.A. eventually sued Sixth Sense, claiming that they had entirely failed to provide the service promised. The case was fairly cut and dry, with Sixth Sense being unable to provide evidence…
That they had actually made attempts to reunite this man with his wife using their ‘magical knowledge’. As such, the court ordered them to pay M.E.A. what he had paid them for their services, as well as compensation – totalling 400,000 roubles, or approximately $6,300.
A wondrous service
Sixth Sense had claimed that the process they undertook to reunite M.E.A. with his wife would be fairly involved. It would require consulting with experts in various supernatural fields – including fortune tellers, bioenergy therapists, and extrasensory perception experts.
Upon finding the right expert, they would enlist their help in repairing M.E.A.’s relationship with his estranged wife. As well as relationship services, Sixth Sense also offered to lift the evil eye from people, and dispel ancestral curses.
It was made pretty clear during the court proceedings with M.E.A. that Sixth Sense were an entirely disreputable company, who had no intention of making good on their claims. Not only could they not provide evidence of having consulted with the various promised experts…
they failed to appear in court or make a case at all. In the end, Sixth Sense had simply been preying on people’s fears and desires, hoping to make a quick buck out of less discerning customers.
Paranormal culture has boomed in Russia over the last few decades, no doubt leading to several such instances where people were taken advantage of. After the fall of the Soviet Union, magic and the occult suddenly experienced a massive resurgence in popularity.
TV shows featuring psychics were everywhere, with practitioners of the numinous arts promising to heal people’s illnesses through a TV screen, or contact the spirits of their loved ones. Interest in magic even extended into the government, with psychics actually appearing on the payroll of government departments.
Even today, a Russian interest in the occult is still thriving. It’s estimated that the occult industry in Russia has reached a value of $30 billion, with over 100,000 self-professed spiritual practitioners practicing their ‘arts’.
Numerous people, of all walks of life, continue to visit these psychics, mediums, and witches, looking for help. Success in one’s career, finding a lasting love in life, freeing oneself from the pall of a curse – all of these are to be found in the depths of a crystal ball.
With fervent belief in the occult being so widespread, it’s therefore pretty common for people to be scammed by less-than-honest individuals looking to exploit people’s fear and interest in the unknown.
Every day, any number of people will be taken in by sweet words from someone who has as much magic in them as a beat up magician’s hat. Some people promise wealth, love, and contentment to people who are just a little too willing to believe in miracles.
While many incidents are quite minor, there are some out there with a bit more gumption. There are scammers who offer people the fulfillment of their deepest desires, promising open doors to wealth, love, or just about anything else.
One Russian gang did just that, promising to make a powerful politician out of a businessman, using the subtle influence of magic – helped along by a few hundred thousand roubles of course.
In 2011, a Russian businessman was approached by two people, introducing themselves as Maxim Boychenko and Svetlana Solovyova. The two claimed to possess magic powers, which they could use to help him achieve a higher career position.
They offered this businessman a seat in the State Duma, one of Russia’s two legislative chambers. Boychenko and Solovyova promised this businessman that his victory was assured so long as they were helping him, and he was certainly interested in enlisting their help.
Proving their prowess
Boychenko and Solovyova managed to convince this businessman of their abilities, staging several meetings in government buildings to reassure him of the influence that their supernatural skills brought them. As such, the businessman agreed to work with them.
However, Boychenko and Solovyova were hardly doing this out of the goodness of their hearts, in support of a candidate that they believed in. Somewhat predictably, they made it clear that their services would require the boost of a minor, small infusion of money – a mere, paltry sum of $1 million.
Taking a turn
The businessman that Boychenko and Solovyova had contacted was somewhat put off by the size of this sum, but he still agreed to pay them. However, just before transferring the money, this businessman suddenly refused to make the transaction, fearing that he would be arrested and tried for fraud.
Boychenko and Solovyova did not take kindly to this, attempting to blackmail the businessman into co-operating by claiming that the process had already been set into motion, and that his candidacy had been approved.
Investigating the incident
Now believing that he was in too deep, the businessman agreed to their wishes – but Boychenko and Solovyova had changed their demands. Instead of money, they demanded that they be given property in Moscow, owned by the company that this businessman was the director of.
He agreed, but the transfer process was noticed by a member of the company’s board, who immediately went to ask the police to investigate – at which point they set up an inquiry into this sudden development.
Quashing the problem
Now facing a very serious police inquiry, the businessman was becoming increasingly nervous about his situation. However, Boychenko and Solovyova assured him that they could solve this problem as well.
They offered to use their supernatural influence to quash the investigation, and all for the much more reasonable price of $60,000. Faced with no real solution, the businessman agreed once more to their bargain, and arranged a meeting with them to hand over the money.
However, little did Boychenko and Solovyova know that at this point, the businessman had already been approached by the authorities privately, and was working with them to apprehend the scammers. While the businessman was meeting Boychenko to pay half their fee, the authorities appeared to arrest Boychenko.
It turned out that the two criminals were actually Zasur Mustafayev, a former employee of Moscow’s mayor, and Isolde Gross, a self-proclaimed psychic who had appeared on TV. The two were detained and their activities investigated, before they were eventually imprisoned.
Despite how it might seem, Russia is far from the only place that these sorts of situations occur. So long as there are people who want to believe that there’s something behind the curtain, tricksters will emerge from the woodwork, promising to lay such mysteries bare before them.
One 57-year-old woman from Hounslow in London, England, accepted the spiritual services of one man – only to experience increasing demands and continuous secrecy that would go on to cost her an unbelievable £400,000 (approx. $483,000).
One day in June of 2013, a woman received a letter through her door that gave her serious cause for worry. The missive claimed that she was suffering under the effects of black magic, and that she should immediately call the number on the letter if she wanted to fix this problem.
Such an ominous letter made this woman very anxious, and she did just as the letter suggested, calling a man who introduced himself as Muhammad Ashraf. He suggested that they meet so he could give her advice, and the woman agreed.
A few days later, the woman met with an accomplice of Muhammad’s who claimed that she was experiencing the negative effects of black magic, but that he could help her with this problem. Extremely concerned, the woman gladly accepted his and Ashraf’s help.
She paid him £350 (approx. $430) for his help, and assumed that the matter was done. She went home, glad to have met someone so willing to help. Little did she know that things would only get more complicated from thereon.
A week later the woman was contacted by Muhammad, who wanted to meet again. She agreed and went to meet him, only to be greeted with shocking news. Ashraf claimed that her problem had been more complicated than he had originally thought.
Now, he would need to do more work for her. Although somewhat worried, the woman was happy to have Muhammad’s help – until he suddenly revealed that, due to the complex nature of the problem, he would require £90,000 ($108,000) to help her.
Racking up prices
Although shocked by this sudden rise in price, the woman did not want to take a chance on the ruinous consequences of black magic, and agreed to pay Muhammad. She could only pay £60,000 ($72,000), but Muhammad accepted this sum to help her.
However, that was far from the end of it – Muhammad and his accomplice continued to request regular meetings with the woman, and were constantly demanding more and more money. Despite the steadily increasing cost of their help, the woman agreed.
However, one day in November of 2015, after 2 years of contact, Ashraf told the woman that his friend had passed away, and that she should delete any evidence of him from her phone. This made her very suspicious, and she contacted the police.
They attempted to find Muhammad Ashraf, but he appeared to have fled the area. The woman was incredibly distraught at having given so much money to someone who had suddenly revealed themselves to be a con artist, but without Muhammad Ashraf her money couldn’t be retrieved.
Using your head
It’s easy to see why people get so caught up in schemes like these. The idea of something out there, intangible and mysterious, that can produce wondrous effects is an appealing prospect. However, no matter how much wide-eyed hope a person wants to have, we might need to be willing to use common sense.
If something seems too good to be true, it usually is – and if someone is offering to perform a dazzling feat for money, you want to get proof that they can actually do it before laying cash anywhere near their hand.