The Psychic, The Novelist, and the $17 Million Scam

"Take off your bracelet," the fortune-teller commands. That's a test. Do you trust? You'd be amazed at how much you'll hand over, telling yourself that it will return.

By Robert Andrew Powell
Also in Reader's Digest Magazine March 2014

stack of money illustrationIstvan Banyai for Reader’s Digest
The work began. Deveraux handed over one of her writing notebooks, for the energy it gave off. She also put up money. Twelve hundred dollars at first, with the usual promise that the cash would be returned when the work was done. Soon, Deveraux added “a few thousand here, a few thousand there, to give [Marks] more energy.” That energy supposedly helped Marks telepathically enter Deveraux’s husband’s mind, to see what he was planning.

The work drew Deveraux in. She began to believe what she was told. And yes, what she was told does sound ludicrous. That her husband had sold his soul to the devil. That the peaceful divorce she was promised was more difficult to deliver than expected, so she should turn over a cool $1 million, which soon became a $1 million-a-year flat fee. In return for the cash, Marks became Deveraux’s most trusted confidante, dispensing advice about all aspects of life. Advice that, in hindsight, could not have been worse.

For the split from her husband, Deveraux wanted to hire an experienced divorce attorney, but Marks steered her to a guy who had little background in divorce. That lawyer drafted an agreement giving Deveraux’s husband too much, the property, the cars. And Deveraux would have to pay her former spouse’s bills into the future, along with his future taxes. Marks pushed Deveraux to sign off on the settlement, explaining that the terms were irrelevant because her husband was “going to die very soon … within three years.”

Twenty years later, he’s still alive. Healthy. Very wealthy. Marks’s advice was so destructive that prosecutors investigated the possibility she was working in league with the divorce attorney. (No evidence of collusion was found.)

Still, Deveraux stayed with Marks, even after the divorce. The novelist wanted a baby. Marks told her she couldn’t have one without the psychic’s help. She also told Deveraux that if she had a child, it would fall over her New York apartment’s balcony railing. So Deveraux sold the apartment, giving Marks all the proceeds so that the money from the sale could be spiritually cleansed. “She was fierce about asking about it,” Deveraux testified, referring to the hefty checks she regularly signed over to Marks. “Money was extremely important to her.”

Deveraux suffered eight miscarriages. When she finally gave birth in 1997, Marks told her that she needed more money to keep the baby from harm. “I would have paid anything to protect my son,” Deveraux explains. “Anything.” The protection didn’t work. Deveraux’s young son died after being hit by a truck. Marks warned that he was going to hell without spiritual intervention. “I gave her some hair I had cut from my son, and she said all she saw were flames,” Deveraux says, her voice wavering for the first time since she’s been on the stand. “She said I had to write books. I was crying all day long. She said she had to have money to keep my son out of the flames.”

With her son dead and her divorce still on her mind, the quality of Deveraux’s books deteriorated, the author admits. The amount of money left to take from her dwindled in lockstep, and Marks became harder to reach, Deveraux says. That’s pretty much the way these relationships conclude. There’s a script for that too.

The end is so inelegant. All your money spent on those diamond-encrusted watches and sterling silver bracelets stashed at Marks’s home. That Ferrari, too, and all those other cars. Also, it will come out, there’s Marks’s gambling addiction. Court testimony reveals that Marks poured millions of her clients’ dollars into slot machines at the Seminole Hard Rock casino in Hollywood, Florida.

You don’t know this yet. You will call Marks repeatedly, begging for the return of your savings. (You’ll be having significant financial problems by now, to say the least.) She used to take your every call. Now she picks up selectively. When you do reach her, she’s brusque. Abrupt. She tries to talk you into showing more faith, sticking with it a little longer so she can complete the work. You ask, again, and then again, for your money. Finally, Marks cracks. “There is no money,” she snapped at Andrea Walker, another client. “You want to sue me, sue me.” She hangs up. The end.

Except now you’re cooperating with the police. You’re taping the phone calls. They will be played in court for jurors, who take less than five hours to deliberate and convict Marks on all 14 criminal counts. Marks, who opted not to testify, nods her head each time the foreman says the word guilty. That morning, she’d arrived at the courthouse in comfortable tennis shoes and pants, a clear change from the sharp outfits she’d worn throughout the trial. It’s as if she can see the future, and she’s ready to be taken into custody, which is what happens.

“I love you,” she says to her distraught family as she’s led away. “It’s going to be OK.”

Marks will likely receive up to 20 years in jail. Prosecutors have filed a motion to get $25 million of the victims’ money returned, a maneuver unlikely to bear fruit, since her attorney, who was paid for his services in part with a used Rolls-Royce from the psychic, claims she no longer has any assets. That doesn’t upset Deveraux.

“I will accept no money from this [prosecution],” she’d earlier testified. “My only goal here is to make Rose Marks stop doing this.”

The guilty verdict is being appealed. Marks is too frail to survive incarceration, her lawyer insists. Even with a sentence as short as four years, “the wear and tear on her body from working since she was eight or nine” would kill her. Regardless of her sentence, she has entered custody with a project to work on. She intends to write a book about her life, she has said. She believes it’s a story people will want to read and, more important, buy. She thinks there’s a way she can still make some money out of this.

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  • Your Comments

    • Luo

      The statement: “anyone who goes to see a psychic
      deserves to be fleeced” is misleading. It is like saying: “Anyone who uses the internet deserves to be scammed”, or “Anyone who invests money deserves to lose it”. Genuine psychics can often produce amazing information – a little actual research will bear this out. But fake psychics are just like fraudulent web pages or bad investments – worse than useless.

      There is no need to condemn genuine psychics just because fake psychics exist.

      • KSEubanks

        I’ve never even **heard** of “real psychic”. Are they listed in the Yellow Pages or somewhere on the ‘net? Where does one find a “real psychic”? I could certainly use some word of what my future will bring.

        • Aku Bata

          This essay is on point and I laughed whilst reading it because it reminded me of myself. I have been a victim and yes, I have been gullible. It is embarrassing but true. I have been fleeced of lots of money (thousands of dollars) because I keep seeking for solutions to my problems via spiritual means. You see I have myasthenia gravis and my children have autism—– and because of my cultural background, I was raised to belief in supernatural. I believe in God and the power of God to heal, thus I seek pastors and prayer warriors to help me pray. I have done countless spiritual works and these involve money. Yes, one of the “pastors” I met claimed that I was meant to be a priestess (or what we call native doctor….like a shaaman) and that I came from the “water spirit”. Long story short, it cost me good chunk of money trying to appease the water spirits who were said to be at war with me, and who were said to be behind my health misfortune and my children’s misfortune. After that, she discovered that I was “cursed” by a jealous woman….and that my personal “chi” or god wants appeasement sacrifices….It was one demand after the other from the spirits…. And I got wiser. She even warned me that if I fail to appease the gods and work as a priestess, that they would bring more suffering to me… Anyway, I defied that, and have refused to keep wasting my money. It is sad that a lot of us are superstitious regardless of how sophisticated we may appear to be. Anyway, this was a good story.

        • raymondschep

          Pyschics do exist..
          Go and read Annie Besant’s Book on “Man, Whence, Whither and Wherefrom”. It was written in 1910 and in it she gives an accurate description of the internet. She says at a future time there would be no more newspapers and families would get the news sent to their homes via a device, and they would be able to print out the daily news inside their own homes. She also wrote that all European countries would eventually unite into one central government and that ther would be no more warring between European countries. And this was 1910. Go read it, it is all in there.

          • KSEubanks

            Sorry, that’s not really proof, or even evidence, that psychics exist. You can say the same thing about Nostradomus(sp?) “predictions” which only work if you read them the right way. Even in 1910 – and well before then – there were a lot of people predicting the same things. A unified Europe has been a goal of a lot of people for decades before this person ‘predicted’ them.
            The book sounds interesting but it **doesn’t** seem to be proof that psychics exist.

            • raymondschep

              Well nobody can prove anything to anyone who disagrees, it is very easy now that Europe is Unified to say oh it would have happened anyway, but this was not so apparent in 1910, as a matter of fact two of the worst world wars where just about to break out, and nobody except a true psychic would have predicted this at that stage, and also in 1910, nobody had the slightest idea of what internet is and only a true psychic could have predicted it.

            • KSEubanks

              The funny part is that I would LOVE to see proof, or even decent evidence, that psychics exist but this person’s book just isn’t “it”. It proves nothing, it doesn’t even really **show** anything aside from some sleight of hand tricks that have been used by “psychics” for a great many years. It’s not that it’s easy to say something like European unification would’ve happened anyway in retrospect, there were a LOT of people working towards that unification and predicting that it would succeed.
              There were futurists who were predicting things like cell phones and the Internet in the late 1800′s and early 1900′s. H.G. Wells wrote “The Time Machine” and in that story he wrote of things no one had the slightest idea about; lasers, genetic engineering, automatic doors, etc… In other books he predicted nuclear weapons, mankind landing on the Moon, WWII, and more. Yet he never claimed to be psychic, he saw where science was heading and dreamed of the possibilities.

              I honestly don’t like to disagree with psychics being real but I’ve never, not in 40 years of reading and looking, seen evidence for a psychic that wasn’t easily debunked or explained somehow. Maybe I’ve become cynical over the years but I keep looking, and hoping to find, evidence of real psychic occurrences. Along with ghosts, UFO’s, and a few other supernatural happenings that I’ve not seen good evidence for I keep hoping these things can be shown to be real. Maybe someday I’ll find decent evidence.

    • least fascist

      This essay is so poorly written it’s not believable – even though it’s true.

      • Betty Jo

        What was poor about the writing?