TEN CHARGED IN $40 MILLION ADVANCE FEE SCHEME
Defendants Claimed to be Fortune Tellers and Spiritual Advisers
Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Michael K. Fithen, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Secret Service, Miami Field Office, Jose A. Gonzalez, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CID), and Frank Adderly, Chief, Fort Lauderdale Police Department, announced that ten (10) defendants have been charged in an indictment unsealed today. The indictment, the result of “Operation Crystal Ball,” focused on a group of individuals claiming to be fortune tellers, psychic readers and spiritual advisors. In reality, however, these individuals defrauded more than a dozen victims out of more than $40 million.
The 61-count indictment charges the defendants with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud (18 U.S.C. 1349), substantive counts of mail fraud (18 U.S.C. 1341), substantive counts of wire fraud (18 U.S.C. 1343), and money laundering conspiracy (18 U.S.C. 1956). Each count carries a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, if convicted. In addition, if convicted, the defendants will have to pay mandatory restitution to the victims of their crimes. The defendants charged in the indictment announced today are:
Rose Marks, 60, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida and New York, New York;
Nancy Marks, 42, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida and New York, New York;
Cynthia Miller, 33, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida;
Rosie Marks, 36, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida;
Victoria Eli, 65, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida and Secaucus, New Jersey;
Vivian Marks, 21, of, Fort Lauderdale, Florida;
Ricky Marks, 39, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida and New York, New York;
Michael Marks, 33, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida;
Donnie Eli, 38, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida and New York, New York; and
Peter Wolofsky, 84, of Boca Raton, Florida.
Six of the defendants (Rose Marks, Cynthia Miller, Rosie Marks, Vivian Marks, Michael Marks, and Donnie Eli) were arrested today in South Florida and made their initial appearances in federal court this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge James Hopkins in West Palm Beach. A Pre-Trial Detention hearing is scheduled for Friday, August 19, 2011 at 10:00 AM. Defendants Nancy Marks and Ricky Marks were arrested in New York and made their initial appearances there earlier today. A pre-trial detention hearing has been scheduled for them in New York for Thursday, August 18, 2011. Defendant Peter Wolofsky is expected to appear in court in West Palm Beach next week. Defendant Victoria Eli is still at large.
As alleged in the superseding indictment, the defendants held themselves out as fortune tellers, clairvoyants and spiritual advisers. In this way, they falsely represented to their victims that they could remove purported evil spirits or curses from their lives or that of their loved ones. The defendants falsely claimed that these evil spirits and curses were the cause of illnesses, financial problems, family problems and other difficulties faced by their victims.
According to the indictment, to execute the scheme, the defendants 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. Although the defendants promised to return the victims’ money and valuables once cleansed, the defendants deposited the victims’ funds into bank accounts they controlled and used the money to pay for their personal expenses and promote their lifestyle.
Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the U.S. Secret Service’s South Florida Organized Fraud Task Force, which included outstanding assistance provided by the Fort Lauderdale Police Department and the Internal Revenue Service. This case is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Laurence Bardfeld of the Fort Lauderdale Office.
An indictment is only an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
Superseding Indictment (PDF)
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.