FORT LAUDERDALE — A South Florida family of gypsies amassed $40 million in a fortune-telling scam, warning victims that if they didn't follow the psychics' advice, terrible things would happen to them or their loves ones, prosecutors say.
Details spilled out in federal court Friday after eight people were arrested this week.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Laurence Bardfeld said victims who were going through vulnerable phases in life forked over cash, gold coins, jewelry and other valuables to the fortune-tellers. The defendants promised victims they wouldn't spend the money, but then refused to return it, he said.
The Sun Sentinel reported one victim, a bestselling author, gave an estimated $20 million to the family.
"She was under, for want of a better word, the curse of Rose Marks," Assistant U.S. Attorney Laurence Bardfeld said.
The fortune-teller reportedly told the author that her dead son was "somewhere between heaven and hell."
Those arrested Tuesday include: Rose Marks, 60; Cynthia Miller, 33; Rosie Marks, 36; Vivian Marks, 21; Michael Marks, 33; and Donnie Eli, 38. Nancy Marks, 42, and her husband Ricky Marks, 39, were arrested in New York.
Authorities began investigating the family in 2007 after a victim complained about losing $3,000.
"From the people I've interviewed so far, I've found nobody pleased with their services," former Fort Lauderdale police Detective Charles Stack testified Friday. He's interviewed more than a dozen alleged victims.
Authorities say the family ran its fortune-telling business in upscale neighborhoods in South Florida starting in 1991. Federal agents seized 400 rings, many with large diamonds, hundreds of fancy necklaces and at least 100 watches, many from upscale jewelry stores, from the home.
On Friday, a judge ordered six family members to be held without bond because they posed a flight risk.