South Florida and NY psychic going to prison, must repay $2.2 million to victims

Nancy Marks, 44, of Fort Lauderdale, was sentenced to three years and nine months in federal prison for her $2.2 million role in a psychic fraud conspiracy

Sun Sentinel, Florida/January 13, 2014

By Paula McMahon

A South Florida "psychic" who told clients that she could influence everything from terminal cancer to the fate of frozen sperm, was sentenced to federal prison Monday and ordered to repay more than $2.2 million to her victims.

Nancy Demetro Marks, 44, of Fort Lauderdale, must begin serving her prison term of three years and nine months by Feb. 14. She pleaded guilty last year to her considerable role in a massive psychic fraud conspiracy led by her mother-in-law, Rose Marks.

Nancy Marks sobbed and apologized during her sentencing in federal court in West Palm Beach.

"I am very ashamed," Marks told U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra. "Even though I was raised [to be a psychic] I should have known better and I do know better now."

Marks was one of nine family members arrested in August 2011 on allegations they operated a conspiracy that fleeced clients who came into their psychic stores in Fort Lauderdale and beside the famed Plaza Hotel near Manhattan's Central Park.

Marks, who often used the name Joyce Michael or Michaels, admitted she told clients she contacted spirit guides and channeled God-given advice, promising to return victims' cash when her "work" was done — then refusing to give it back.

Prosecutors said Marks was more culpable than most other members of the conspiracy, which included her daughter Vivian, 24, who is to be released from prison Sunday after serving four months.

But Nancy Marks was less responsible than her 62-year-old mother-in-law Rose, also of Fort Lauderdale, who faces a much harsher punishment when she is sentenced in March.

Rose Marks was the only member of the family who went to trial. Last fall, a jury found her guilty of being the ringleader of what prosecutors say was a more than $20 million fraud conspiracy.

Prosecutors say Rose Marks targeted and groomed the victim who lost the most money: best-selling romance novelist Jude Deveraux.

Federal prosecutors Roger Stefin and Larry Bardfeld said Marks preyed on clients at the most vulnerable times of their lives: during illness, bereavement and when their romantic relationships were breaking up. She passed along some clients to Rose Marks, claiming their cases needed her greater expertise.

Some of Nancy Marks' former clients testified at Rose Marks' trial, including British solicitor Andrea Walker, who told jurors she asked Nancy Marks to help win back her husband's love and to prolong his life when he was diagnosed with a lethal cancer.

Marks told Walker she could help but never foresaw the bombshell: Walker's husband, Brian, had secretly frozen his sperm and signed a contract with a former employee who wanted to bear his child, using in vitro fertilization, after his death.

Prosecutors said the Marks women exploited Walker's desperation, milking about $900,000 from her between 2009 and 2011. Walker's husband died and no baby was borne but the money was never returned either, prosecutors said.

Susan Abraham, an Englishwoman who lives in Spain, testified that she gave about $300,000 to Nancy Marks, starting in 2010. Marks convinced her that she and her husband, had been "competing warriors" during "prior lives" in the 1600s and that she was in danger because he had "murdered" her in that lifetime.

Rose Marks, who has been locked up since the September jury verdict, and her other daughter-in-law, Cynthia Miller, who pleaded guilty, are to be sentenced in March.

Nancy Marks' defense attorney Michael Gottlieb asked the judge for a lighter sentence, noting that Marks, like most Roma, was the victim of prejudice, received little formal education and had few other job prospects.

Since her arrest, Gottlieb said, the mother of three has held down two "legitimate" jobs and is getting an education. He said she deserved credit for helping to persuade other family members to reach plea agreements with prosecutors, avoiding the taxpayer expense of trials.

"My client didn't prey on any individual," Gottlieb said. "People came to her."

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