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Press Release

Former Owner of ‘Readings by Catherine’ Indicted

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Virginia
Sandra Marks Charged with Mail Fraud, Wire Fraud and Money Laundering

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VIRGINIA – The former owner of  “Readings by Catherine,” a business in Charlottesville that offered palm readings, candles readings, tarot card readings, and other services, has been indicted by a federal grand jury sitting in the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia in Charlottesville.

Sandra Marks, 40, of Charlottesville, Virginia, a.k.a. “Catherine Marks,” was charged in a sealed indictment returned April 22, 2015 in U.S. District Court in Charlottesville. That indictment was unsealed yesterday morning following the defendant’s arrest and initial court appearance in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. Marks was temporarily detained pending a bond hearing July 24, 2015 at 3 p.m.

The grand jury has charged Marks with 31 counts of wire fraud, two counts of mail fraud and one count of money laundering.

According to the indictment, Marks operated a business that offered palm readings, candle readings, tarot card readings, astrological readings and spiritual readings. The defendant offered walk-in services to customers, some of whom suffered from emotional distress and mental disorders, had recently gone through personal traumatic events in their lives, and/or who were emotionally vulnerable, fragile and/or gullible.

The indictment alleges that Marks unjustly enriched herself, and others, by obtaining money, jewelry and other things of value from her customers and clients of “Readings by Catherine” based upon false pretenses, representations, promises and omission of material facts. Marks claimed she was clairvoyant and able to see into the past and the future. She told clients she had a “gift from God” and was able to communicate with spirits and guides from God, including the “Prince of Illusion,” who would relay information to her about clients.

Marks, according to the indictment, would tell clients that she had learned from the spirits and guides that the client, and/or the client’s family, was suffering from a “curse” and a “dark cloud” that occurred in the past. The defendant would tell clients they would have to make a “sacrifice” of large amounts of money and valuables since “money was the root of all evil.”  Marks told clients she preferred cash and explained that the money or valuables would be buried in a box or otherwise hidden away and “cleansed” through prayer, rituals and meditation.

The indictment states that Marks told her clients that she could not and would not use the money and valuables furnished as “sacrifices” for her own personal benefit. Once cleansed, she assured her clients that the money and valuables would be returned to them. Contrary to those assurances, Marks, according to the indictment, kept and used the money and valuables provided by her clients for her and her family’s own personal use and economic benefit. In a few instances, Marks returned some money upon threat of legal action.

The investigation of the case was conducted by the Department of Homeland Security Investigations, the United States Postal Inspection Service, the United States Secret Service, the Virginia Attorney General’s Office and the Albemarle County Police Department. Special Assistant United States Attorney Elliot Casey will prosecute the case for the United States.

A Grand Jury Indictment is only a charge and not evidence of guilt.  The defendant is entitled to a fair trial with the burden on the government to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Updated July 24, 2015

Financial Fraud