You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

'Psychic' who once defrauded Floridians now faces charges in Washington state

Tribune News Service logo Tribune News Service 11/2/2017 By Brooke Baitinger, Sun Sentinel

a group of people posing for the camera: Linda Marks, a Delray Beach, Fla., psychic, right, and her husband, James, middle, are taken from the Delray Beach Police Department in a May 2002 file image. © MARK RANDALL/Sun Sentinel/TNS Linda Marks, a Delray Beach, Fla., psychic, right, and her husband, James, middle, are taken from the Delray Beach Police Department in a May 2002 file image. FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - It was easy to believe that Linda Marks was magic.

Maybe it was the snakes and scorpions at her side. Or the clear water she turned to blood. Or her assurance that she could drive away the evil spirits in your life.

Whatever it was, Marks convinced a lot of people in South Florida that she was a psychic. Prosecutors say she took them for more than $2 million about a decade ago, leading to a prison sentence.

According to court testimony, among her past victims was an elderly man dying of leukemia who was defrauded of more than $300,000, his life savings.

Now authorities say Marks has been operating a sham fortunetelling business north of Seattle, where a private investigator from Boca Raton tracked her down.

Police in Mount Vernon, Wash., arrested the 69-year-old woman Monday on charges of first-degree theft by deception. Jail records show Marks was booked into the Skagit County Jail.

Her arrest has prompted police to ask Mount Vernon residents to step forward with information. There may be more victims "so we wanted to get this information out to the public," said Police Lt. Greg Booth.

Marks, who once owned a psychic business in Delray Beach, drew news headlines in the 2000s in South Florida.

In May 2006, she was convicted in U.S. District Court in Miami for defrauding multiple victims of more than $2 million, with the help of a then-Delray Beach police detective.

According to a 2005 federal indictment, Marks falsely told "sick, elderly and otherwise vulnerable people" that she could determine if evil spirits were present in their lives. Authorities said she used magic tricks - snakes, scorpions and images emerging from eggs, and the turning of clear water to the color of blood - to convince people of her powers and legitimacy.

State records show Marks was freed from prison in Florida in 2008.

Mount Vernon is where she now owns a fortunetelling business, Booth said.

In the latest case, Mount Vernon police said:

On Sept. 20 this year, a woman told officers she gave a large sum of money to Marks in exchange for "spiritual cleansing and destroying evil energy." Marks told the woman the money would be given back to her after her psychic work was complete. When the woman tried to get her money back, Marks told her she would need to provide even more money for all the funds to be returned.

The woman, suspecting she was being tricked, enlisted the help of Brian Nygaard, a Boca Raton-based private investigator who specializes in fortuneteller fraud cases, according to Booth.

Nygaard said a Washington woman, a mother in her mid-40s, was the person who sought his help. Though police didn't say how much the woman allegedly had stolen from her, Nygaard said it's more than $50,000.

"These cases are all psychological manipulation under the guise of assistance," Nygaard, a former officer, said of fortunetelling schemes. "They sell false hope. That's a very powerful product when you're a person that's desperate."

Nygaard said the woman had reached out to Marks because she was depressed after experiencing relationship difficulties, a concussion and severe wrist injury. She also felt guilty for inheriting money that her siblings did not, Nygaard said.

Mount Vernon police are aware of the fortuneteller's history in Florida, Booth said.

On Oct. 6, Mount Vernon police met Nygaard and Seattle police, police said. Detectives started gathering details of prior cases involving Marks and also obtained financial records of the current victim, police said.

Detectives pieced a criminal case together, and used a warrant to search Marks' business Monday. During the search, she was arrested and jailed. Detectives also recovered business and personal financial records, which they say will help them in their ongoing investigation.

Marks is being held on $75,000 bond, jail records show.

Visit the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) at www.sun-sentinel.com

AdChoices
AdChoices

More From Tribune News Service

Tribune News Service
Tribune News Service
image beaconimage beaconimage beacon