More than 1.4 million people in the U.S. alone have fallen victim to a mail scam centered around a psychic named Maria Duval. Officials around the world have tried to shutter the multimillion-dollar scheme with little success. It was unclear if the scam’s namesake was even a real person. So, CNN investigative reporters Blake Ellis and Melanie Hicken decided to follow the fraud back to its source and uncover its leaders. Their reporting took them through a maze of shell companies, to a Brazilian surfing school and even the South of France.
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Looking for links to the stories and resources we discussed on this week’s podcast? We’ve collected them for you.
- Read Blake Ellis and Melanie Hicken’s CNN Money investigation into Maria Duval.
- Buy “A Deal with the Devil: The Dark and Twisted True Story of One of the Biggest Cons in History,” Blake and Melanie’s new book on the Maria Duval scam.
- Members only: Download a 2015 tipsheet on consumer investigations from Jim Donovan, Cindy Galli and Randy Mac.
- Members only: Download a tipsheet on turning complaints into compelling stories.
- Members only: Download a tipsheet by Becky Yerak with tips for backgrounding businesses.
- Members only: Download Blake and Melanie’s 2018 tipsheet on turning your investigation into a book.
The Records (Blue Dot Sessions) / CC BY-NC 4.0
Our Digital Compass (Blue Dot Sessions) / CC BY-NC 4.0
Slow Line Stomp (Blue Dot Sessions) / CC BY-NC 4.0
Sunday Lights (Blue Dot Sessions) / CC BY-NC 4.0
Parisol (Blue Dot Sessions) / CC BY-NC 4.0
Stately Shadows (Blue Dot Sessions) / CC BY-NC 4.0
The Confrontation (Podington Bear) / CC BY-NC 3.0
Julie Christie reported this episode. IRE Editorial Director Sarah Hutchins edits the podcast. Blake Nelson draws our episode art. We are recorded in the studios of KBIA at the University of Missouri.