Saturday, August 20, 2011

"Divination" - Today...

What used to be the domain of shamans, priests, priestesses, oracles, and fey people who did not want the gift of foretelling the future has, unfortunately, created a very active sub-culture of frauds and phoneys today who promise to tell your "fortune" for big bucks!  I just wonder - are these people real "Gypsies" or are they "tinkers" of Irish origin (not descended from the Romany). 

8 charged in alleged $40M Fla fortune-telling scam
AP – 5 hrs ago

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Prosecutors say a South Florida family of gypsies amassed $40 million in a fortune-telling scam, warning victims that if they didn't follow their advice, terrible things would happen to them or their loved ones.

Details spilled out in federal court Friday after eight people were arrested earlier this week.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Laurence Bardfeld said victims who were going through vulnerable phases forked over cash, gold coins and jewelry. The defendants promised victims they wouldn't spend the money, but then refused to return it.

The Sun Sentinel (http://lb.vg/gLR1E) reports that one victim, a bestselling author, gave an estimated $20 million.

Authorities started investigating in 2007 after a victim complained about losing $3,000. An attorney for one family member said the clan provided counseling for victims who had nowhere to turn.

From story at South Florida Sun Sentinel:

Fortune tellers defrauded bestselling author of $20 million, feds say
By Paula McMahon, Sun Sentinel
8:42 p.m. EDT, August 19, 2011

From storefront businesses in upscale Fort Lauderdale neighborhoods, a family of fortune tellers ran a $40-million scheme that defrauded people from near and far since 1991, federal prosecutors said in court Friday.

Among the victims was a bestselling author who gave an estimated $20 million to the family. The woman, who prosecutors refused to identify, lost her 8-year-old son in a motorcycle accident and was allegedly exploited by at least one of the defendants, Rose Marks, who she considered a friend.

"She was under, for want of a better word, the curse of Rose Marks," Assistant U.S. Attorney Laurence Bardfeld told the judge at the hearing in federal court in West Palm Beach. The fortune teller reportedly told the author that her son was "somewhere between heaven and hell."

Several sources with knowledge of the case said the victim is Jude Deveraux, author of 37 New York Times bestsellers that include romances and tales of the paranormal. Deveraux's real name is Jude Gilliam Montassir.

On her MySpace page, she wrote that she "adopted a son, Sam Alexander Montassir … My son died at age 8 in a motorcycle accident. It was a horrible accident I will never forget in my life. After it happened my books became more about family instead of romance."

Attempts to reach Deveraux, 63, at phone numbers listed for her residences in and outside Florida were unsuccessful Friday evening.

Rose Marks' attorney, Fred Schwartz, said in court she had collaborated with the author, who he did not name, on books about gypsy culture.

Other purported victims of the psychics included a woman with a brain tumor who was told she would receive "positive energy" but is now out of work and in danger of losing her apartment; a person from Japan who gave them $496,000; and a man from Denmark who sent about $186,000 he thought was going to charity work.

While some may scoff that people gave cash, gold coins, jewelry and other valuables to the fortune tellers, Bardfeld told the judge the victims were going through very vulnerable phases of their lives.

"If you understood the severity of what these victims were going through, it makes more sense," Bardfeld said. They were told that if they didn't follow the psychics' advice, terrible things would happen to them or the people they cared about, he said. Many were assured their money or property would be returned to them when the fortune tellers' work was done, but those promises were broken, the prosecutor said.

Among those arrested Tuesday in Fort Lauderdale were Rose Marks, 60, who uses the name Joyce Michael; Cynthia Miller, 33, Rosie Marks, 36; Vivian Marks, 21; Michael Marks, 33; and Donnie Eli, 38. Arrested in New York were Nancy Marks, 42, and her husband Ricky Marks, 39.

Most of those charged are members of the Marks family, a so-called Romanian gypsy clan whose members were born and grew up in the United States. None have known criminal records.

The businesses include Astrology by Nancy, run out of a home in Fort Lauderdale's Coral Ridge neighborhood; Astrology Life, at 2000 E. Sunrise Blvd.; Joyce Michaels Consulting at 1130 S. Federal Hwy.; as well as a Davie psychic shop at 4252 Davie Road Extension.

Federal agents who arrested the eight people who are in custody so far told prosecutors they had never seen anything like the amount of top-end jewelry, fancy cars and gold coins seized from the main family home on Seminole Drive in Fort Lauderdale and safe deposit boxes.

More than 400 rings, many with large diamonds, at least 100 watches and 200 necklaces were seized and may be subject to forfeiture by the government if the defendants are convicted. Detectives said many of the items were from Cartier, Tiffany & Co. and Gucci.

Recently retired Fort Lauderdale Police Detective Charles Stack, who worked the case with the U.S. Secret Service, testified Friday that the case began in March 2007 with a complaint from a victim who lost $3,000.

"From the people I've interviewed so far, I've found nobody pleased with their services," Stack testified. He said he had spoken with about 17 people who claimed to have been ripped off at the family's businesses in Broward County and near the Plaza Hotel in New York City.

Norm Kent, who represents Michael Marks, said the family was being wrongly portrayed and had provided counseling and hours of support to people who were suffering anxiety attacks, considering suicide or had nowhere else to turn. "I don't know when fortune telling became a federal crime," Kent told the judge. He said the family had set up legitimate businesses, licensed with the state of Florida and operated with the knowledge of city authorities.

Bardfeld, the prosecutor, said family members committed federal offenses when they conspired together and promised victims they would not spend the money, then refused to return it. They also committed wire fraud, he said.

In the course of the investigation, some clients agreed to record conversations with the family members, at least one agent went undercover and pretended to be a customer and, when officers legally picked through the family's garbage, they found discarded jewelry boxes from high-end stores.

After a more than four-hour hearing, U.S. Magistrate Judge James Hopkins decided the six family members in court Friday would be held without bond as flight risks and potential dangers to the community.

As the judge issued his ruling, three of the women began to sob and wail. The defense attorneys vowed to appeal, saying the family is concerned that their young children would be taken into state protective care because practically the whole family locally is in federal custody. They have not formally entered pleas but the lawyers indicated they plan to fight the charges.

If convicted, Rose Marks, who moved to Fort Lauderdale 13 years ago from Virginia, could face as much as 27 years in prison, prosecutors said. The other alleged leaders, Nancy Marks and Cynthia Miller, could receive 14 or more years in prison if found guilty.

Staff Writer Sofia Santana and Researcher Barbara Hijek contributed to this report.

1 comment:

Robur d'Amour said...

There was a furore in Romania a few months ago, over a new law which makes fortune tellers liable for incorrect predictions, and also liable to pay tax on their earnings:
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1344940/Fortune-telling-witches-face-spells-jail-pay-taxes-time.html

Fortune telling seems to be a significant sector in the Romanian economy.

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