Novelist may have been victim of psychics' $40m scam, court told

 

A best-selling romance novelist whose books sometimes explore themes of the paranormal may have been among the victims of a Fort Lauderdale-based fortune-telling scam.

Police in Florida arrested several members of one family last week as part of an investigation – dubbed "Operation Crystal Ball" – into the alleged criminal activities of a clan of US-born Romanian gypsies who ran fortune-telling business, some out of shops in well-to-do neighbourhoods of Fort Lauderdale.

Prosecutors told West Palm Beach courthouse that the family had defrauded clients out of $40m (£24m) over 20 years, taking money and property with promises that it would be returned once their work was done.

That, the prosecutors said, never happened. Clients were allegedly also warned of terrible things that might happen to them if they did not do as the fortune-tellers requested.

One victim, who had handed over an estimated $20m to the gypsy family, was described as a best-selling author who sought help from the defendants after losing her eight-year-old son in a motorcycle accident.

Prosecutors did not name her. However, The Sun-Sentinel newspaper yesterday identified her as Jude Deveraux, a prolific novelist who has had 36 books listed on The New York Times best seller list.

The writer "was under, for want of a better word, the curse of Rose Marks", Assistant US Attorney Laurence Bardfeld said at the hearing on Friday. The fortune teller she had contacted allegedly told her that her son was "somewhere between heaven and hell".

There was no public comment available over the weekend from Ms Deveraux, 63. On her MySpace page, however, she had previously revealed: "My son died at age 8 in a motorcycle accident. It was a horrible accident I will never forget in my life. After it happened my books became more about family instead of romance."

Among those arrested in the round-up of clan members last Tuesday was Rose Marks, 60, who uses the name Joyce Michael; Cynthia Miller, 33; Rosie Marks, 36; and Vivian Marks, 21. Prosecutors said victims of the fraud included a person from Denmark and another from Japan who gave them almost $500,000.

Prosecutors face the tricky task of differentiating sheer gullibility on the part of the victims who saw fit to part with so much money and actual criminal exploitation by the defendants.

"If you understood the severity of what these victims were going through, it makes more sense," Mr Bardfeld told the court.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing
The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower