Family of late gypsy leader Jimmy Marks has been busted in psychic fraud scheme
A Manhattan psychic busted in a $40 million scam preyed on naive tourists who were all too eager to pony up cash for glimpses of the future, neighbors said Wednesday.
Accused swindler Nancy Marks, a relative of the flamboyant, late gypsy leader Jimmy Marks, lured customers into her W. 58th St. parlor by promising "psychic intuition."
Instead, the unwitting journeyers were tricked into handing over piles of money and valuables in return for nothing more than curse-killing prayers.
The feds arrested the 42-year-old along with nine other family members in New York and Florida Monday for crimes that spanned 20 years and included conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering, prosecutors said.
"She mainly took advantage of tourists who didn't know any better, giving them palm readings and things like that," said one longtime resident of the swanky, 12-story apartment building, where Marks had her scam parlor on the first floor.
"I have no idea how that translates into $40 million."
The parlor's glass window was shattered yesterday. A small globe, a statue of a Buddha and a green candle were still inside. A sign outside read: "Laws of Attraction guided by psychic intuition. Walk-ins welcome."
The gypsy clan duped unknowing or all-fearing people into handing over chunks of cash and valuables to avoid being haunted or suffering bad luck, authorities charge.
An indictment against the clan includes 61 counts, each carrying a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, The Miami Herald reported.
The Marks clan, of Romanian descent, first achieved notoriety in 1986 when police raided the Spokane, Wash., home of Jimmy Marks and his father, Grover Marks, searching for stolen goods.
They found $1.6 million in cash and $160,000 in jewelry, which the men claimed they were holding for Romanian families that did not trust banks.
Courts later ruled the raids were illegal, and an intense legal battle ensued.
Jimmy Marks, a used car salesman and a colorful character known for his abundance of hats, jewelry and neckties, claimed to have put a curse on all of Spokane.
He frequently battled with officials at Spokane City Council meetings.
His legal battles later became the subject of the PBS documentary "American Gypsy."
The city of Spokane paid the family $1.43 million to settle their civil suit in 1997. Jimmy Marks died 10 years later after suffering a heart attack while at the dentist.