By Terrence McCoy
By Scott Fishman
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Allie Conti
By New Times Staff
By Ryan Pfeffer
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Kyle Swenson
"Because I believe I got the gift directly from God, I felt I had to do something with it. For more than fifteen years, I dedicated my life to helping anyonewho needed help. Seduced by the power and the money it brought, I also took my share of the pie.
"But now I am done.
"With this book I will end my career as a master psychic."
Too bad it isn't true. Milbourne hasn't stopped working as a fortuneteller. In fact, she recently created a website where she recites her supernatural credentials and urges people to "Call Today!" and "Start Building a Better Tomorrow!"
And that's just the beginning of the factual problems in the book, which was co-written with Sun-Sentinel "special correspondent" Yvonne Carey. Miami Psychic is, in fact, a load of bunk. So much so that the name Regina Milbourne will surely be mentioned in the pantheon of recent sham authors like JT Leroy, Nasdijj, and James Frey.
It's not even her real name. According to her driver's license, the author's true identity is Gina Marie Marks. She's part of a notorious Gypsy criminal family that has personally been involved in well-documented fortunetelling scams.
But you wouldn't know that if you read the book, which was released by Regan Books, a HarperCollins' subsidiary run by publishing diva Judith Regan. When initially questioned last month about Milbourne, publicist Jennifer Brunn said that, as far as the publishing house knew, the author was using her real name. Brunn also said HarperCollins would look into the allegations.
They haven't returned my phone calls since, but here's how HarperCollins' website touts Milbourne:
"Regina Milbourne first realized her psychic gift two weeks after almost drowning in an unattended swimming pool when she was twelve. With only a sixth-grade education, and half her life spent as a practicing psychic, she is coming clean to leave her past behind. She lives in Miami, Florida."
Wrong again. Marks doesn't live in Miami (though she may have lived there several years ago). She's actually a Broward County psychic, having lived most of the past decade in Hollywood and Dania.
Guess Dania Beach doesn't have the same glamour as South Beach.
In her meandering and contradictory book, Marks (or Milbourne) admits that the stories about clients are composites, not to be taken as absolute fact. She even goes so far as to refer to Weston as "Reston," the giant developer Arvida as "Vidarva," and Mickey Mouse, no kidding, as "Mutton Mouse."
Fair enough. The problem is that the entire book hinges on one giant lie: That "Milbourne" is a put-upon heroine, a psychic with a heart of gold who keeps getting dragged down by unscrupulous clients. She complains about racism against Gypsies, likens herself to an "unlicensed psychologist," and makes sweeping claims about the good work she's done for humanity.
"In every case, I am fighting dark forces with my blood, body, soul, and mind. My life and karma are on the line... I give [clients] the confidence to feel like they can have peace. In many cases I'm their last hope."
God help them. The truth about Marks may best be learned not in the pages of her book but in police files in San Mateo County, California. And if those reports are to be believed, Marks is no psychic.
She's an interstate predator.
Here's the story, according to reports: Back in 1999, Marks did a call-in radio show that aired in San Francisco. She simply phoned it in from her fortunetelling shop in Hollywood and paid $300 for the airtime.
A woman in California heard the show and called a 1-800 number for Marks. The "psychic" then convinced her that all her problems were the result of "dirty money" that needed cleansing. She persuaded the woman to withdraw $9,900 from the bank each day until she had $75,000 in hand.
On January 5, 2000, Marks told the victim to put the cash in a pillowcase and meet her in a hotel room in California. In the room, the future Regan Books author proceeded to rub cream on the victim's chest and pray over the money. "Marks convinced the victim that she had to take the money to a secret shrine in San Jose in order to continue cleansing it," according to reports. "Marks took the $75,000 and subsequently refused to return it."
It's a little anecdote that somehow didn't make it into the book. The victim went to the police.
During the same period, another of Marks' marks complained to detectives that the master psychic had ripped off another $45,000 in a similar manner, only this time the victim flew the money to Fort Lauderdale and handed it over to her in Plantation.
When police began an investigation, Marks' Fort Lauderdale attorney, Jim Lewis, arranged that full restitution be paid to the victims. When the money was paid back, the San Mateo County District Attorney's Office agreed not to file charges, saving Marks from criminal prosecution.
Lewis, who is known for representing young killer Lionel Tate, confirmed that he'd arranged for restitution to be paid in the two cases. He also confirmed that Marks and Regina Milbourne are the same person (Milbourne is her "stage name" in the fortunetelling business, he said). Lewis hadn't read Miami Psychic but said he knew it was coming out.