Fortune Tellers Convicted Of Fraudulent Practices in New York, Florida, and Colorado

220px-John_William_Waterhouse_-_The_Crystal_BallWe recently discussed the crackdown on sorcerers in Muslim countries. Mystics are finding themselves targeted in the United States as well in recent weeks. In New York and Florida, clairvoyants have been prosecuted for fraud and some cities and states are moving to ban soothsaying.

While I have little respect for fortune tellers, I do view such activities as protected by both free speech and free association principles. Indeed, laws requiring express disclosures that soothsaying or medium work is “for entertainment only” requires speech that clearly runs against the views of both mediums and their clients. Many believe in the supernatural and I fail to see why they have to post “entertainment” warnings but not mainstream religions that encourage prayer to Earthly rewards. Indeed, some televangelists assure their followers that faith can bring answers to their prayers for money and success.

Obviously, there are many fools who are easy to part with their money. For example, well-known romance novelist Jude Deveraux paid psychic Rosa Marks about $17 million over 17 years and later testified against her in a fraud trial in Florida. She says that she was duped into believing that Marks could transfer the spirit of Deveraux’s dead 8-year-old son into another boy’s body and reunite them. Putting aside Deveraux’s willingness to use another boy for such a transfer, she is an adult who decided to pay for the supernatural service. She now says “[w]hen I look back on it now, it was outrageous. I was out of my mind.” Well, yes, yes you were, but why is that a crime because someone sold you on a fantasy? A casino can take the same amount in gambling without recourse and a church can take it on the promise that she will be rewarded in the afterlife by reuniting with her son.

Marks, 62, of Fort Lauderdale, was found guilty of fraud and money-laundering conspiracies, mail and wire fraud, money-laundering and filing false tax returns. The Roma gypsy family was targeted in “Operation Crystal Ball” which led to the arrest of 10 family members. The Justice Department stated:

used magic tricks and false statements to frighten their victims into giving them large sums of money and other valuables, including jewelry and gold coins, to be “cleansed” of the evil spirits. The defendants told victims that they and their family would suffer terrible consequences, including diseases, hauntings, and financial hardships, unless they turned over their money and valuables for “cleansing” by the defendants.

nancy marks mug shot cropped-thumb-120x101In 2011, another psychic named Nancy Marks was convicted in Colorado of bilking clients. She allegedly told clients that “money is evil” while convincing them to give her $300,000.

psychic7n-2-webSylvia Mitchell, 39, a psychic in Grennwich Village, was also convicted of grand larceny in swindling two women out of nearly $140,000. She told Debra Saalfield, a professional dancer, that she was once an Egyptian princess and convinced Lee Choong to given her $100,000 as a way of improving her love life. To make matter even worse, one female juror told the media that she was afraid to give her name because Mitchell would “put a hex on me.” She said that Mitchell stared at her in a menacing supernatural way. The free speech concerns of the case were magnified by the allegations of promises of improved lives. However, there were specific allegations that money was taken to be held but not returned or used to buy charms. That brings elements of conduct that mitigate some free speech concerns.

I remain unclear on why some supernatural promises are protected while others are not. Consider such religious pitches below:

39 thoughts on “Fortune Tellers Convicted Of Fraudulent Practices in New York, Florida, and Colorado”

  1. No one has mentioned conspiracy
    . Making predictions of curses stops being free speech when you have arranged to have it fulfilled by your confederate.

    What does that say about the white house’s handling of the government shutdown? Is a government order to harass tourists impeachable?

  2. I laughed at how stupid people can be and yet I have mixed feelings because I am a psychic “sensitive.” I’ve had paranormal experiences most of my life and sometimes I will do card readings for people. I don’t call it fortune telling; I call it psychic counseling.

  3. Mary Cosmo:

    Congratulations! I recall your comments on this site while you were still in law school. It’s great to know that you have completed that ordeal and are now up and operating. Best wishes for the success of your practice.

  4. Fortune telling is a Racket.

    No, fortune telling can be a racket, but is not always a racket. I’ve known persons who have the ability to “read palms” or to otherwise tell people’s fortunes quite accurately. My father (who had a Ph.D. from Duke) fell in this category. He told us that he was given “instructions” on how to read palms by a fortune teller in Prague in the 1930’s, when he was a young man, after he visited the fortune teller and was told by her that he had a natural aptitude for reading palms. She did not charge him for this “instruction,” per my father, and she spent a few hours with him to pass along her “skills”.

    For many years, whenever we would go out to eat, he would start flirting with our waitress, and then would end up reading her palm. Next thing you know, more waitresses would come over to our table to have their palm read. Drove the restaurant managers crazy. Whenever he would do this, time after time, the waitresses would express their amazement at how accurate he was at discussing their life history, the problems they were facing, what they were thinking about, etc.

    How much of his ability to do this accurately time after time depended on his people reading skills, which were outstanding, and how much depended on actual “palm reading”, I can’t say. But he definitely was very skilled at doing this.

    My wife also visited a fortune teller not long before she met me years ago. The fortune teller described the man who she would soon meet and marry, along with a number of his characteristics. The characteristics that the fortune teller described were not generic characteristics that might describe many different men. Rather, the characteristics were very specific in a way that limited the number of men to whom the fortune teller could have been referring. I had every characteristic described by the fortune teller. My wife does not make stories up. Period. Scared the heck out of me when she told me.

    The only thing that is a racket all the time is tennis.

  5. Yeah, the fortune teller is a one shot sort of thing like going to a cathouse in Amsterdam whereas the preacher owns you and your wallet for life.

  6. The difference between a fortune teller and a preacher, priest, rabbi, imam, etc is that a fortune teller will state with certainty that something will happen. The preacher et al will say that there is a higher being, be good and good will come to you, maybe. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. etc.

  7. I thought this about USGinc. “used magic tricks and false statements to frighten their victims into giving war contractors large sums of money and r their sons and daughters for war, valuables, including our Constitutional rights, to be saved from terrorists like David Miranda, Muslims and who-ever the govt. wants to go after at the time. USGinc will “cleans” our population of the evil spirits. The defendants told victims that they and their family would suffer terrible consequences, including diseases from anthrax made in govt. labs, hauntings of dead civilians including babies, children women and men, ordered by a guy who said he was really good at killing people (that would be Obama who said that), and financial hardships such as austerity, unless they turned over their money and rights, along with their children in exchange for “cleansing” by the defendants.”

  8. Robin, I’ve become a strong believer in that 6th sense. I consider an energy. We all put out energy even when we are not in front of a person. When I first started doing surveillance I would be nervous. I would be in a van, completely out of sight, but some people, maybe w/ that perception we don’t understand, would just get hinky, I could see it in their eyes and body language. As I became more experienced, it happened less and less. When I became a veteran, cool and calm, it never happened. The last 20-25 years, smooth sailing.

    A book I recommend as a gift to all high school girls, 17years or so, is The Gift of Fear. Because, in some instances, fear is indeed a gift. Our gut telling us to run, stay away, be wary of a person. Our media is always triggering fear so we have become numb to it. Everything is a crisis, be afraid of a freakin’ snowstorm. Wisconsinites used to be tough winter people. Now, a 8″ snow is coming and people go to the store like survivalists.

  9. Don de Drain
    “The problem when you inject religion is that people hold all sorts of beliefs that are objectively unusual.”

    OW! OW! OW!, LOL, “Objectively unusual” My brain hurts :o)

    … PS, have you seen most of the money that has passed through my hands !!!!!

  10. Dredd thanks for the link to your blog. now i’ll spend the weekend reading all i can on it instead of rereading my favorite books. and thanks for the laugh in reading the blog link….

    imo people who believe in psychics are literally the same as those who get involved in cults.. they are looking for something, anything to give meaning to their lives.

    those who believe in fortune telling are even more lost. as no one can predict your fortunes. no matter what they tell you life as the world changes everyday.. so its hard to feel sorry for the fortune telling believers. they get caught up because they are trying to cheat what is known as fate,destiny, or the master plan!!! ex a woman who goes to a fortune teller for a charm which will bring back a ex boyfriend to her.. ….!!!!!??? or those who want to talk to dead relatives. its exasperating to me that anyone can fall for that crap.. the fact is they are trying to cheat fate and that is why they get caught up..

    We are all born with a 6th sense of such. those feelings when something isnt right or something is wrong…. there were times when i knew something was gonna happen before hand. ive never been able to explain it and dont try.. dreams that give you the feeling of deja vu.. situations where you feel and think ive been here before of this happened before.. a feeling of knowing someone even though you’ve never met them before. the hairs standing up on the back of your neck.. cold chills running thru your body.. all those feelings are from a 6th sense.. and those are the feelings listed as psychic. the rest is bs.

  11. If you characterize yourself as a person of religion then you can fleece a flock without interference and of course lie about the good, the god, the bad, the ugly. Watch tv on Sunday morning and you will get your fill. Repeal the First Amendment religion prong. Keep the other prongs.

  12. Politicians use deception all the time and they are generally reelected and paid quite well! I think as long as there is a warning that each client signs that states fortune telling is not possible and this session is simply entertainment, then it should be fine, Maybe there could be a fortune telling certification process where the state could make some cash on the deal, then it would be encouraged.

  13. Anonymously Yours 1, November 5, 2013 at 1:48 pm

    And to think Nancy Reagan used astrologers in the whitehouse …

    They finally found the planet Kolob for her, where The Reagan retired to:

    Kolob is a star or planet described in Mormon scripture. Reference to Kolob is found in the Book of Abraham, a work published by Joseph Smith, Jr., the founder of the Latter Day Saint movement. According to this work, Kolob is the heavenly body nearest to the throne of God … Kolob has never been identified with any modern astronomical object and is not recognized by scholars as a concept associated with any ancient civilization.

    (NeoCon Planet: The Presidents of Kolob). Gives new meaning to star gazer and star geezer.

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