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Did psychic see charges coming?

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri's attorney general has filed lawsuits against a television psychic hot line for allegedly violating the state's no-call law and consumer fraud.

"Miss Cleo should have seen this coming," Attorney General Jay Nixon said. "It doesn't take a crystal ball to realize that ripping off consumers isn't without consequences."

Nixon filed two suits Tuesday against Access Resources Services Inc., a Florida company best-known for promoting Miss Cleo's tarot psychic reading.

Speaking with a Caribbean accent, Miss Cleo appears in national television commercials promising insights into love, money and other personal matters.

The lawsuits filed in St. Louis Circuit Court allege 94 violations of the state's no-call list. The company faces fines of up to $5,000 per violation if found liable for calling people who requested privacy.

Sean Moynihan, a New York City-based attorney representing Access, said the state has no basis for suing the company.

"We strongly disagree with the contentions that are raised in the lawsuits," Moynihan said. "We are very anxious to work with the attorney general to demonstrate that the business practices of Access are proper and do adhere to the law."

Nixon said Missourians were billed for free services and that the company misrepresented reduced rates and waiver fees. For example, customers spent three minutes on the phone providing information including a name, address and phone number then were charged for time spent on hold waiting to speak with a psychic.

Missouri residents who never requested the service, including deceased people, have received bills for Miss Cleo's services, Nixon said. Moynihan said telephone companies are responsible for billing, not the company.

The company also charged consumers for calls made by minors who did not receive parental consent, Nixon said. Moynihan said the company has safeguards to prevent minors from calling, and only those who lie about their age can get through to the psychic.

Mark Pryor, Arkansas' attorney general, sued Access last year for alleged fraud, saying the company had "used just about every trick in the book to mislead and overbill consumers."

On the Net:Missouri Attorney General: www.ago.state.mo.us

Miss Cleo: web8.mindandspirit.com/perl/nav.pl