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Press Release

Sandra Marks Sentenced on Mail Fraud, Money Laundering

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Virginia
In A Separate Hearing, Donnie Marks Pleads Guilty to Same Charges, Both Agree Repay Victims at Least $1.2 Million to

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VIRGINIA – The former owner of a fortune-teller business located on Seminole Trail in Charlottesville was sentenced today in Federal court on charges that she committed mail fraud and laundered more than $1 million in money stolen from her victims, United States Attorney John P. Fishwick Jr. said today. In a separate hearing, the defendant’s husband pled guilty to similar charges today.

Sandra Stevenson Marks, a.k.a. “Catherine Marks,” 42, of Charlottesville, previously pled guilty to one count of mail fraud and one count of money laundering. Today in District Court, Sandra Marks was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison.  

In a separate hearing today in Federal Court, Donnie Stephen Marks, 43, formerly of Charlottesville, pled guilty to an Information, charging him with one count of mail fraud and one count of money laundering. Both defendants have agreed to repay at least $1.2 million in restitution to the victims of the scheme.

“These defendants found victims who were at some of the lowest points of their lives and took advantage of that grief for their own financial gain,” United States Attorney Fishwick said today. “Today’s sentence shows the seriousness of the nature of this crime and I hope it brings some level of closure to the victims of this scheme.”

According to evidence presented at previous hearings by Assistant United States Attorney Ronald M. Huber, Sandra Marks and Donnie Marks operated the business “Readings by Catherine” on Seminole Trail in Charlottesville, which offered services such as palm readings, candle readings, tarot card readings, astrological readings and spiritual readings to clients. Sandra Marks provided direct customer services while Donnie Marks managed the affairs of the business.

Sandra Marks has admitted, through a statement of facts submitted to the court and signed by the defendant, that she enriched herself by telling her clients she was clairvoyant and able to see into the past and the future. Marks also said she told her clients she had a “gift from god” and was able to communicate with spirits and guides from god, including the “Prince of Illusion,” who relayed information to her about clients.

Sandra Marks further admitted that she 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. Marks would tell clients they would need to make a sacrifice of large amounts of money and valuables, whereby she would bury the money and items in a box to be “cleansed.” Marks explained to her clients that the money and property would be returned once the “work” was complete.  Additionally, Marks would tell the clients that the money and property would not be used for Marks’ own personal benefit.

Contrary to her representations to clients, Donnie Marks and Sandra Marks kept and used money and other valuables provided by their clients for their own personal use and enjoyment and that of their family. When Sandra and Donnie Marks had used all of a client’s money, Sandra and Donnie Marks would find new clients to fund the scheme, or tell old clients that additional money was required to continue her “work.”

The investigation of the case was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, the United States Postal Inspection Service, the United States Secret Service, the Virginia Attorney General’s Office, the Albemarle County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office and the Albemarle County Police Department. Assistant United States Attorney Ronald M. Huber prosecuted the case for the United States.

Updated November 21, 2016