A Florida family that amassed a $40 million fortune by claiming to possess clairvoyant powers for the past 20 years, has been charged with swindling victims, including a best-selling romance author who gave $20 million.
Rose Marks and her family of fortune-tellers claimed to have the ability to communicate with gods, spirits and even Michael the Archangel, which they allegedly used to cure illnesses and make their clients' wishes come true. The client base for Marks' family was spread far and wide with people from Denmark and Japan offering money in exchange for a better future.
Marks, 60, and eight family members pleaded not guilty last week, the AP reported. Defense lawyers said the family's Gypsy religion gave them the ability to heal psychically and that there was no wrongdoing involved in their business. They try to do that and they get paid for it, defense attorney Fred Schwartz said.
Marks moved her family to Florida 13 years ago, and her children and grandchildren moved into her luxurious waterfront home in Fort Lauderdale after her husband died of brain cancer in 2006.
Family also ran a Fort Lauderdale shop and another in New York next to the luxurious Plaza Hotel, apart from offering psychic services.
Schwartz said the family's ancestors have been spiritual advisers dating back 2,000 years and clients have included movie stars and Fortune 500 executives.
The best-selling romance novelist Jude Deveraux reportedly sought Marks' help in conceiving a baby way back in 1991. Later, Marks consoled her after her 8-year-old son Sam died in an accident in 2005, Schwartz said. Deveraux confirmed to the South Florida Sun Sentinel that she was a victim but declined further comment.
In another instance, the family duped a 32-year-old victim, who complained of hearing voices, by demanding 32 gold coins representing each year he did not have faith, as an offering to Michael the Archangel. When the voices didn't stop, the victim asked for the $400,000 worth of coins to be returned. The family said that the coins were in a cemetery, but only Michael the Archangel knew the exact location, according to an AP report.
Marks' daughter-in-law, Nancy Marks, picked out a pricey Cartier watch and asked the victim to pay for it so Marks could turn back time and bring back love, prosecutors said.
Marks often asked her clients for huge sums which, she promised, would be returned after cleansing. But phone calls went unanswered when the victims tried to get their money back, indictment said.
Authorities have seized Tiffany and Cartier diamond rings and watches, $1.8 million in gold coins, Harley Davidson motorcycles, several luxury cars, including a red Ferrari and a white Rolls Royce, as well as two South Florida properties.
The multimillion-dollar scam was busted when victims talked with law enforcement to realize that they were not the only ones who were tricked. Court denied bail to the family members.