SPOKANE, Wash. - Relatives of the late Gypsy leader Jimmy Marks have been arrested in a scam that swindled $40 Million from unsuspecting victims.
The Marks family claimed to confer with gods, spirits and even Michael the Archangel to cure diseases and break curses, asking for and accepting jewelry, gold coins and luxury cars in return, the Associated Press reports.
In all, authorities say, the family amassed a $40 million fortune from defrauding more than a dozen victims in a psychic scam dating back 20 years. The victims included a best-selling author who gave $20 million.
Ten members of the Marks family - Rose Marks, Nancy Marks, Cynthia Miller, Rosie Marks, Victoria Eli, Vivian Marks, Ricky Marks, Michael Marks, Donnie Eli and Peter Wolofsky - were arrested during Operation Crystal Ball, the Secret Service operation to take down the family members involved in the scam. Several family members were arrested in New York while the rest were arrested in Florida.
A 61-count indictment charged the Marks family members with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud and money laundering conspiracy. Each count carries a maximum 20 year prison sentence if convicted.
Marks' defense attorneys said they believe their Gypsy religion gave them the ability to heal psychically and that business was legitimate.
According to the indictment, members of the Marks family, while claiming to be fortune tellers, clairvoyants and spiritual advisors "falsely represented to their victims that they could remove purported evil spirits or curses from their lives or that of their loved ones."
The indictment alleges members of the Marks family would "frighten their victims into giving them large sums of money" so they could be cleansed of evil spirits. The Marks family members would then keep the money and use it to "pay for their personal expenses and promote their lifestyle" according to the indictment released by Wilfredo Ferrer, the US Attorney for the Southern District of Florida.
The ten people arrested, according to the New York Daily News , are reportedly relatives of Jimmy Marks, who put a curse on Spokane City Hall after his father Grover's death in 1997. According to the Spokesman-Review, however, Jimmy Marks' widow claims the New York and Florida Marks family is not connected to the Spokane Marks family.
The local Marks family had a long-running battle with City Hall in the wake of a 1986 raid on their home in which $1.6 Million in cash and jewelry was found in their home. They sued the city for $40 Million and later settled with the city for $1.43 Million.
Jimmy Marks died in 2007 after suffering a heart attack during a dentist appointment.
The Associated Press contributed to this report