Skeptic News: Man charged in 'psychic' fraud case pleads guilty

From: Sun Sentinel

One of nine members of a Broward County family of fortune tellers accused of operating a multimillion-dollar fraud on customers pleaded guilty to a lone criminal charge this week.

Michael Marks, 34, of Hollywood, reached a plea agreement with prosecutors and admitted he participated in a mail and wire fraud conspiracy dating to the early 2000s in Broward and Palm Beach counties. Marks is the son of Rose Marks, who federal prosecutors say is the matriarch and ringleader of a sophisticated conspiracy. Nine members of the family were arrested in August 2011 on allegations they cheated clients out of an estimated $40 million, including $20 million from bestselling novelist Jude Deveraux.The defense team has fought the charges aggressively, accusing investigators of serious misconduct.

Prosecutors confirmed to a judge earlier this week that they had taken the case back to a federal grand jury in recent days and were planning to tweak the charges and allegations for the third time since the case was filed.

Michael Marks was the president of Astrology Life Inc. and, with his wife, Cynthia, ran “psychic” businesses on Sunrise Boulevard near The Galleria, and on West 58th Street in Manhattan, next to the famous Plaza Hotel.

Marks pleaded guilty to the conspiracy charge Wednesday in federal court in West Palm Beach. He admitted receiving cash and gold coins that co-conspirators got from their clients, including $107,000 worth of gold coins from one victim in May 2010.

The conspiracy involved preying on vulnerable customers by performing “psychic” readings, telling fortunes and reading tarot cards, according to court records. The women would tell clients they were cursed or had other problems that could be fixed by turning over cash, jewelry and other valuables to perform rituals and cleansings, the women promised to return the valuables but the family kept them.

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