Jury finds Lauderdale 'psychic' guilty of defrauding clients of $25 million

Judge orders Rose Marks to be jailed until sentencing December 9th

Sun Sentinel, Florida/September 26, 2013

By Paula McMahon

Rose Marks told clients of her psychic business that she could foresee the future, fix the past and even control the Internal Revenue Service — but she was visibly shocked Thursday when jurors took just five hours to find her guilty of masterminding a $25 million fraud.

The Marks family matriarch drew deep breaths and gave a slight nod to each of the 14 charges of the indictment as they were read out loud, followed by the word: "Guilty."

The four-week trial featured bizarre testimony from former clients, including best-selling romance novelist Jude Deveraux, who testified that Marks and her family exploited their vulnerabilities, and their religious and spiritual beliefs, to fleece them. Many of the women in the family worked under the name "Joyce Michael" or "Michaels."

The trial judge rejected Marks' request to remain free on bond until she is sentenced Dec. 9. He ordered her taken into custody immediately in the federal courtroom in West Palm Beach. Prosecutors say she faces up to 20 years in prison.

As she was led from the courtroom, Marks said "I love yous" to her family.

"It's going to be OK," she assured them in a low voice.

The jury — which included a lawyer, a teacher and a stock trader — found Marks, 62, of Fort Lauderdale, guilty of fraud and money-laundering conspiracies, mail and wire fraud, money-laundering and filing false tax returns.

Her attorney Fred Schwartz said she will appeal on several grounds, including what he called "government misconduct" by investigators who did not record their conversations with victims.

In a phone interview with the Sun Sentinel, Deveraux, the best-selling author of dozens of romance novels, said she was thankful for the verdict.

"I feel relieved that she's going to be taken out of this psychic business and can't hurt other people like she hurt me," Deveraux said.

The novelist estimated she lost about $20 million to Marks but said she wants none of the money back.

"The whole thing was never about money. I just wanted justice and mainly to make her stop hurting other people and maybe to make her whole family stop this."

Though Marks' relatives were initially calm and cried softly as the verdict was read, several of them became very upset after jurors left the courtroom and the family realized their matriarch was not going to be allowed to remain free on bond.

"Please let me hug my mom," Marks' eldest son, Ricky Marks, asked U.S. Marshals and courthouse security officers.

Other family members begged to be allowed to give their phone numbers to "Pinky" — Marks' family nickname — so she could call them from jail.

One grandson jeered at the lead investigator on the case, retired Fort Lauderdale Detective Charlie Stack, asking him, "How are you feeling now, Charlie? You did a good job?"

But Marks' two sons Ricky and Michael Marks tried to calm their family and apologized to Stack.

Daughter Rosie Marks began hyperventilating and collapsed to the floor in the hallway outside the courtroom. She and her two brothers, their spouses, one of Marks' granddaughters and Marks' sister have all pleaded guilty to related charges and are free while awaiting sentencing later this year.

Other members of the extended family shouted and one threw a Bible in the courtroom, yelling "I hate this Bible … I don't want this Bible anymore."

There was more security than usual in the courtroom but the agents and officers handled the disruption diplomatically, urging everyone to remain calm and trying to alleviate the family's concerns.

"Now justice has been served ... I think the evidence in this case speaks for itself," said Stack, who began investigating the case in 2007.

He said he took no pleasure in seeing Marks taken to prison but was relieved that the victims of the fraud were proved right.

The case, and the publicity it received, raised public awareness of the perils of predatory and fraudulent fortune tellers, Stack said.

"The victims were praying for hope — and hope is the unwavering faith in the unseen," Stack said. "But I take no pleasure in seeing someone going to prison and I understand why her family is upset. [Rose] is somebody's mother, somebody's daughter, somebody's grandmother."

The jury roundly rejected Marks' defense and sided with federal prosecutors who said she was the ringleader, mastermind and banker for a massive family conspiracy. They also found that she took customers' money, promising to return it when she knew she planned to keep it.

Not only did she rip off her own customers, the jury found, but she also worked with her daughter and sons, their spouses and her sister and granddaughter to fleece clients of their psychic stores in affluent neighborhoods in Fort Lauderdale and Manhattan.

They also found she tried to conceal the source of "dirty" money by moving it through her business and personal accounts and signing checks over to be cashed or deposited by other people.

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