Cops and Gypsies

Friendly law enforcement officers become the weapons of rival destruction in the gypsy tribal wars

The gypsy elder says there's only one reason he's out to rid South Florida of John Uwanawich and his family of fortune tellers.

"He's giving all gypsies a bad name," said the elder, who spoke to me on condition of anonymity in a Burger King on Griffin Road in south Broward. "We want to set an example in Florida: 'Stop terrorizing people.' We want it to stop."

Sitting next to him was a law enforcement officer who backs up the gypsy, saying that it's time to put an end to the Uwanawich family's scams and that I'm a person who can help.

"You write about them in the newspaper, and then victims come forward," says the lawman, who also asked for anonymity. "We want them to know, 'Now we are looking at you.' "

Targeted by the duo are Uwanawich, his wife, his three sons, and a daughter, Gina Marks. The latter achieved some notoriety when HarperCollins published her book, Miami Psychic, under the alias of Regina Milbourne. Since the book came out in 2006, I've exposed her long history of swindling her customers, prompting several new victims to come forward.

The most recent development, however, involves one of John Uwanawich's sons, Tony Unich. The lawman tipped off another agency, the Florida Highway Patrol, about a false driver's license in the high-living Unich's name, under which he'd allegedly bought a Bentley, a Ferrari, and a Cadillac. Last Monday, FHP arrested Unich at his posh condo at the Trump Palace in Sunny Isles on charges of license and title fraud.

After Unich bonded out of the Broward County Jail, I gave him a call.

"You want a good story?" the 35-year-old Unich asked me. "How about a gypsy who has a crooked cop behind him? There is a gypsy who wants $20,000 from me, and I told him to fuck off. That was before Christmas, and on Monday morning I get woken up by the police and taken to jail for a driver's license that hasn't been valid for eight years."

Unich named the gypsy, whom he says was trying to extort him, and, of course, it was the same elder that I met at the fast food joint. Unich said he didn't know the name of the cop, calling him a "phantom."

It was the phantom who tipped me off.

"A guilty gypsy runs," Unich told me. "I'm not running. I'm staying right here and I'm fighting. This is a war now."

Unich's accusations of police corruption aren't substantiated, but there's one thing he said that rang true: This seemed like the beginning of a gypsy war.

I've written on and off about gypsies — the popular name for the Roma people who dispersed from India many centuries ago — for more than a decade. Because of their secretive, transient, and often criminal culture, it's not easy to get good information from them. Their economic lives are largely based, after all, in tricking outsiders like me, or gadje, as we are known in their language.

Florida is a popular state for gypsies. If you see a fortune telling shop, odds are it's inhabited by a gypsy family. Women work the shops while the men often run small construction companies.

Police agencies routinely warn citizens about their notorious fortune telling and construction scams. Not that all gypsies are criminals, some are law-abiding citizens who make honest livings. But the culture itself is largely built on thievery and likely always will be. And it's notorious for corrupting cops, a phenomenon with which I've had some experience.

In 1999, I wrote about then-Palm Beach County Sheriff's Deputy John Nicholas, who portrayed himself in the media as a gypsy who left the life and was dedicated to warning people against the scams perpetrated by his people.

The problem was that he was very close to the aforementioned John Uwanawich, whose criminal record includes a charge of bribing a police officer. Nicholas basically used his power as a cop to go after Uwanawich's rivals to protect the gypsy's turf. He resigned from the department not long after an article detailing the relationship appeared in New Times.

One of the sources for that article was then-Delray Beach Police detective Jack Makler. It turned out, however, that Makler himself was corrupt, using his position to help another gypsy, Linda Marks, swindle several fortune-telling clients. He pleaded guilty to federal fraud and corruption charges in 2006 and is currently serving a five-year prison sentence.

That same year, publishing diva Judith Regan put out the book Miami Psychic. I learned that the author, "Regina Milbourne," was actually John Uwanawich's daughter, Gina Marks, and that she had a history of alleged scams and thefts that she conveniently left out of the book.

When I wrote about it, new victims who'd given their savings to Marks in fortune-telling scams came forward. Marks so far has avoided prosecution, in part due to a less-than-aggressive State Attorney's Office and to Marks' agreement to pay restitution.

John Uwanawich's wife, Betty Jo Ephraim, has also been convicted of fortune-telling scams in the past. There's no shortage of swindlers in the Uwanawich clan, and I've seen the pain caused by them firsthand.

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5 comments
Ruatymarxstyle
Ruatymarxstyle

Please check out this web site. It will give you a much better outlook about Gypsies and the crimes they committ. Remember now all Gypsies are bad nor do they commit these crimes. www.rustymarxstyle.com

Publius
Publius

"the culture itself is built largely on thievery". Seriously? Could you get away with racist rants like that if you were talking about African Americans or Jews? The bad people get attention-just like the criminals in other ethnic and cultural groups. Here. Let me make a sweeping and generalization about an entire class of diverse people unsupported by anything other than my claims of expertise: The media in this country is a joke. They no longer bother with real research and serious reporting because they don't care about truth and integrity-just vomiting out what ever happens to come into their heads.

Shame.

Senay
Senay

What a crock of shit this guy wrote, his Informer sold him a bill of goods!!! drives a Volkswagon? I guess he forgot to mention about the new Silver 2 door Bentley, with FL vanity plates that say "G GOON"this guy is a payoff artist who goes around trying to buy cops.forget writing fiction, lets see some reality.

tim who
tim who

I am a victim of gina marks tried to get det john murray to help but no action taken it only seems work if the media grabs it do i have any options?she just got arrested because 5 woman came forward to the tv station or is it because of my gender.Hollywood det.eddie goldbarg never returns calls to me i wonder why?any help would greatly be appreciated.

 
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