Edmonton

Psychic fraud: 'You're looking for answers ... then you realize you've been taken'

Despite feeling embarrassed Martin Morrison says he is glad he reported Cynthia Burt to police after he spent about $2,000 on a crystal he never received.

Despite feeling foolish, victim tells his story to urge others to come forward

Martin Morrison looks at text messages between himself and Cynthia Burt, also known as Psychic Sable. (Nathan Gross/CBC)

A health scare sent Martin Morrison looking for answers. That's when he ended up at the door of a psychic named Sable.

The signs Morrison spotted along Fort Road — advertisements for palm, tarot card and crystal ball readings — seemed like divine intervention to the Fort McMurray-based oil and gas worker.

But now he is embarrassed and feels like a fool after being defrauded of about $2,000.

Cynthia Burt, 22, who was working as a psychic in Edmonton, has been charged with 10 counts of fraud, police say. (Edmonton Police Service)

"I consider myself smarter than that," Morrison said. "I don't know … You're looking for answers and you're hoping that this person could possibly help you out. Then you realize you've been taken."

In a June 11 news release, Edmonton police said they had laid fraud charges against 22-year-old Cynthia Burt, also known as Sabrina Burt or Sable. Police allege that between April 2018 and May 2019, Burt defrauded 10 complainants of more than $70,000. 

Morrison said he was in contact with Burt for about a week beginning last August when he was looking for psychic guidance. He said she was never pushy or over-bearing but she did encourage him to purchase add-ons like candles or large crystals.

"You didn't have to keep [the crystal] if you didn't want it," Morrison said. "The church that she talked about would buy it back off of you. She told me it was $650 and then after I paid her the $650 through an e-transfer she got back to me and she said she made a mistake. It was actually $1,300."

As this particular scenario played out, Morrison's suspicions began to grow. However, since he had been promised he would get the money back, he thought the best thing to do was pay the other $650.

Things continued to unravel.

He was then told because he made the payment in two instalments they could not issue the refund unless he made another payment of $1,300. Morrison was told that "the Bishop" of a church Burt never identified was willing to help cover the cost.

"They gave me a time," Morrison said. "If I didn't pay them by 1:30 that afternoon, that time would run out on this and they wouldn't be able to pay me back anything at all. I said, 'Forget it. I'm not sending you any more money and you can return my money.' They pretty much refused to do that."

The final text message sent from Martin Morrison to Cynthia Burt. Burt has been charged with 10 counts of fraud. (Nathan Gross/CBC)

As soon as Morrison said via text message that he had contacted RCMP and planned to contact Edmonton police, all communication stopped.

"Even though I felt foolish, I thought 'I'm going to the police and I'm going to get something done about it,'" Morrison said. 

Morrison said when he went to make a statement to Edmonton police, they told him other people had also lodged complaints. Despite his own embarrassment, he wanted to speak up to urge others who may have been duped to also come forward.

Edmonton police said Burt was also wanted on three warrants in relation to a similar file in Ontario.

A police spokesperson confirmed they have received several additional calls since's announcing Burt's arrest. Police are continuing to investigate.

'The victim always feels duped'

Lisanne Roy-Beauchamp with the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre said in 2018 Canada-wide they received 330 reports from 168 victims. She also says a study showed that less than five per cent of victims report their losses to the centre. 

"At the end of it the consumer or the victim always feels duped," Roy-Beauchamp said."Not only do they sort of beat themselves up about it but they don't want to share that either because they don't want other people thinking they're incompetent or that they're gullible." 

In 2018 the total losses reported to the centre were just over $104,000.

Julie Matthews, a senior investigator of consumer investigations with Service Alberta, says despite Burt allegedly defrauding people of more than $70,000 they had not received any calls related to Sable Psychic Studio.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tricia Kindleman

Reporter/Producer

Tricia Kindleman has spent her life in Alberta. She grew up in Edmonton and attended Mount Royal College, now university, in Calgary. She has worked in newsrooms in Edmonton and Grande Prairie.

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