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Trial begins for Fla. fortune teller accused of $25 million fraud
The first witness will take the stand on Wednesday in the criminal trial of Rose Marks, a clairvoyant who is accused of defrauding clients including best-selling author Jude Deveraux, of $25 million over decades.
Marks, 62, has psychic powers that have run in her family for over 1,500 years, says her attorney, Fred Schwartz.
"She said she uses psychic powers to help advise people as a life coach and that she's a spiritual advisor," Schwartz said in an interview with ABC News.
More than a dozen alleged victims, including romance novelist Deveraux, are expected to testify in the trial, for which jury selection began on Monday. Opening statements are scheduled to take place on Wednesday, followed by attorneys' opening statements.
Deveraux, 65, the author of 37 New York Times bestsellers, is declining to comment during the trial, according to her publicist. Marks preyed on Deveraux's problems related to relationships, the death of her son, and difficulty having children, police say. She reportedly handed over $20 million to Marks.
Through her attorney, Marks, based in Fort Lauderdale, declined to comment, but Schwartz said she denies the charges against her.
The latest version of the 15-count federal indictment from the U.S. Attorney's Office accuses Marks of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud, money laundering conspiracy, money laundering and filing a false tax return. The U.S. Attorney's Office is requesting a judgment of $25 million, representing the amount she allegedly obtained fraudulently.
Marks and eight family members were arrested in Aug. 2011. The family members pled guilty to lesser charges, the Sun-Sentinel reported.
During the jury selection process, family members of Marks have shown support by watching from the courtroom.
The indictment states that Rose Marks "a/k/a Joyce Michael, along with co-conspirators, represented herself as a psychic and clairvoyant, gifted by God to communicate with spirit guides to assist her clients through personal difficulties."
Her services included "Tarot card readings, palm readings, astrology readings, numerology readings, and spiritual readings for her clients," the indictment states.
The indictment continues, "The conspirators would offer services to walk-in customers, some of whom would be suffering from mental and emotional disorders, who had recently gone through personal traumatic events and/or who were emotionally vulnerable, fragile and/or gullible."
The client "would need to make 'sacrifices', usually consisting of large amounts of money (but also at times including jewelry, gold coins and other property) because 'money was the root of all evil'," the indictment states.
Schwartz said Marks' family members provided some of those services and not his client.
"She was more of a life coach," he said of Marks.
The indictment alleges that if clients stopped providing additional money or property, Marks' "work" could become "undone and result in harm to the client or client's family or loved ones".
In a previous email to ABCNews.com, Deveraux said that her 2010 novel "Scarlet Nights" details how she views the work of psychics.
"I worked with the police on the story, especially the few pages that tell about the way gypsies give people hope and how they cut them off from everyone. This is all done for money," Deveraux wrote to ABCNews.com in 2011.