Maria Duval

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Maria Duval at her Moscow press conference on October 2008.

Maria Duval is a French psychic (born in Milan, Italy, as Maria Carolina Gamba) [1] is the woman at the origin of the Maria Duval psychic scam. Claiming to have psychic powers, she gained some notoriety before her name became associated with a vast and sophisticated mail scam.

Independent psychic[edit]

First living in Callas in the South of France then traveling extensively, "Maria Duval" was able to build a growing reputation as a psychic throughout the 1970s and 1980s, doing consultations and horoscope newspaper columns. She did media interviews and appeared on the cover of Vogue Paris. Old newspaper clippings she keeps in her home indicate she brushed shoulders with celebrities, although her claim to have psychically found Brigitte Bardot's lost dog was debunked by Bardot herself.[2]

Gamba has a son, named Antoine Palfroy.[2]

Face of giant mail scam operation[edit]

In the mid-1990s, Gamba sold the rights to the name Maria Duval to a group of scammers, who used her notoriety to sell astrology charts. The scam quickly changed form, as sick and elderly people started receiving letters promising the psychic help of "Maria Duval" for $40 per mail consultation. The scam would quickly take gigantic proportions and generate some $200 million in revenues for the fraudsters running it. It appears only a very small portion of that money made its way to Gamba.[2][3]

In 2016, the U.S. Department of Justice shut down the North American arm of the “Psychic” Mail Fraud scheme.[4]

Gamba made several public appearances over the years, including a news conference in Moscow in 2008. She left Callas in the late 1990s, although retaining ownership of the property. She moved back in 2008.[5] She was still residing there in 2018 when French police searched her home and when an investigating team from CNN visited her.[2]

According to her son, Gamba suffered a stroke in 2010 and has been diagnosed with dementia in 2013.[2]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Melanie Hicken, Blake Ellis, and Julia Jones (2016-03-30). "Chapter Five: Knocking on the psychic's door". CNNMoney.
  2. ^ a b c d e Ellis, Blake; Hicken, Melanie (July 26, 2018). "After two years investigating one of the longest-running frauds in history, we finally met its central figure: Maria Duval. What would she have to say?". CNN. Archived from the original on August 13, 2018. Retrieved August 13, 2018. 
  3. ^ Ellis, Blake; Hicken, Melanie (February 24, 2016). "Chapter One: Who is behind one of the biggest scams in history?". CNN. Archived from the original on August 13, 2018. Retrieved August 13, 2018. 
  4. ^ "Justice Department Permanently Shuts Down International "Psychic" Mail Fraud Scheme". 2016-05-09. Retrieved 2018-07-29. 
  5. ^ "Draguignan - Maria Duval : le retour que personne n'avait prédit". draguignan.maville.com (in French). December 28, 2008. Retrieved August 14, 2018.