LOS ANGELES — Bryan James was having a tough time. His finances weren’t in order. His emotional health wasn’t great. And his love life needed a boost.

That’s when the 25-year-old Los Angeles man met Michelle Morgan, who worked in the San Fernando Valley at an office with a neon sign out front proclaiming “Psychic Readings.”

All he had to do to solve his problems was to get a pesky curse removed, but it would cost him plenty, according to a private investigator who James hired to look into the psychic.

Two years later, authorities say, James is out nearly $1 million. And Morgan, whose real name is April Lee, and her husband, Michael Johnson, are free on bail after they were charged with grand theft, attempted grand theft and extortion. They are due in court Dec. 19 for a pretrial hearing.

They were arrested in November when Lee and James traveled to San Jose to collect a final payment of $500,000 his mother was supposed to give them after selling her house. Instead, authorities said, the psychic was surprised to find police waiting for her.

Lee’s attorney, James E. Silverstein, declined to discuss the allegations in detail Friday, but said his client maintains her innocence.

“It’s not a crime to be a psychic,” Silverstein said.

James was having emotional, financial and relationship issues, said New York private investigator Bob Nygaard, who ultimately helped him build a case against Lee, 28, and her 32-year-old husband.

“So it basically made him the perfect mark,” he told The Associated Press.

He said there was a specific person James had a romantic interest in but the psychic told him he couldn’t approach her until the curse was lifted. “Because if he were to do so, her alleged ‘curse removal work’ would fail and my client’s romantic interest would die,” Nygaard said.

Instead, he said, Lee claimed she would become a go-between for the couple, and sent James text messages from her cellphone that she claimed to have forwarded from the woman. One said the woman couldn’t wait to get together with him once that curse was broken.

James kept forking over money, much of it from his mother’s retirement savings, Nygaard said, until he finally became suspicious and approached the woman directly. When he learned she’d never sent him any messages, he went to the police.

Lee’s attorney said there may be crooked psychics out there, but his client isn’t one of them.

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