Judy, Judy, Judy

It's about time, Ms. Regan, that you did something about your misleading book, Miami Psychic.

Judith Regan

Regan Books

HarperCollins

Dear Judith,

I hope you don't mind the public nature of this correspondence. I've never written one of these "open letter" things before, mainly because they're usually hackneyed and pretentious. But in this case, I think it's necessary. So let's get right to the point.

There are people suffering out there because of you, Judith. I know this because they call me on the phone, crying. These people feel great loss and shame. Loss of thousands of dollars and shame because they were gullible enough to let a Gypsy fortuneteller take it from them. Judith, I know you're one of the most successful women in publishing and have millions of dollars, but these people don't have much. They're working people with serious problems, problems that seem insurmountable, problems that make them desperate and afraid.

Help isn't easy to find in the real world, Judith, and these people can't afford trendy New York psychoanalysts. So they went to a "psychic" who goes by the alias of Regina Milbourne. You know Milbourne. Your publishing imprint released her book, Miami Psychic, this spring. You are right now marketing her as a woman with good intentions and a God-given gift of clairvoyance.

I know you're just trying to sell books and film and TV rights, but a lot of people actually believe this psychic nonsense. I suppose if Milbourne were a benign character, little harm would come of it. But she's not benign, Judith — she's a cold-blooded viper.

Had you and your assistants done some basic fact-checking, you might have learned that Milbourne isn't at all who she claims to be. Her real name is Gina Marie Marks, and she's an alleged con artist who has been connected to swindles committed from California to Florida, though she's managed not to be prosecuted.

But you know that by now. I wrote in July about Milbourne's true identity and some of her questionable dealings. I'm sure you either read it yourself or someone briefed you on it. I honestly thought you'd pull the book off the shelf immediately after learning that your author was a fraud.

That was naive of me, I know. I suspect you must have seen it as a challenge instead. It's obvious from what's been written about you that you're, um, strong-willed, to say the least. And I have other things to write about, so I was ready to let it go. But then I got the first call. The woman on the other end was obviously nervous and scared; her voice trembled. She told me that a friend had told her about "Regina Milbourne." Then she saw that Milbourne had a book out proclaiming her to be the real thing, a true psychic.

She went to see Milbourne at the fortuneteller's waterfront home in Plantation Isles. There, Milbourne showed her true colors — she became Gina Marie Marks and got her hooks into the woman. She told her that there was a curse on her head and that her husband and daughter would be harmed if she didn't "cleanse" her money. By the time it was over, Marks had scared the woman out of $3,200.

I told the woman that she should call the Plantation Police Department. She did, and Detective Joe Quaregna took the case. About the same time, I found out that Milbourne/Marks had been accused of stealing jewelry from a woman's house in Hollywood. Police requested a warrant for her arrest, but the case has stalled in the Broward State Attorney's Office.

I wrote a column about both cases, and Marks paid the first woman her money back on the condition that she not prosecute.

A second time I wrote about it, and again, you chose to ignore it. You're keeping the book on the shelves and maintaining a web page that proclaims that "Milbourne" has had her "gift" since "nearly drowning at the age of 12." You still claim that she stood by her "promise to help anyone who sought guidance" but ultimately "left behind" the psychic's life to write the book.

It's all lies, Judith, and you know it. The only action taken in response to the revelations about your author were a bunch of negative reviews written on Amazon.com regarding a small true-crime book of mine, Florida Pulp Nonfiction. I don't know if they were all written by Marks and her co-author, Yvonne Carey (a special correspondent for the Sun-Sentinel), or if some of your staffers got in the act. Amazon had the decency to remove all but one of the spurious reviews, but the remaining blurb suspiciously plugs Miami Psychic.

Kids' games, Judith. But again, I was ready to let it go. Then last week, I got another call. Another woman was on the phone talking about your author. She was in tears. She said she too had just been swindled by Regina Milbourne.

The woman, Deborah, explained that she and her disabled husband's lives were in a rut. They were worried about health concerns and job opportunities. She wanted help. Then she saw Milbourne being interviewed for her book on NBC affiliate Channel 6. She looked up the fortuneteller on the Internet and called.

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