The family was handed a 28-count indictment. Charges include money-laundering and mail and wire fraud. Suddenly, there was a blast of attention aimed at a culture that's survived by ducking the mainstream.

"The police officers are now looking at every Gypsy like they've got $40 million," says one local Romani elder who spoke to New Times on the condition of anonymity. "What you don't want to see is every Gypsy being a target."

Originally from northern India, the Romani, or Roma, arrived in Europe around 1100 AD. Tagged with the name "Gypsies" due to the mistaken belief that they came from Egypt, they've been a longtime target of persecution. During the Crusades, Muslims attacked them as Christians; Christians attacked them as Muslims. In the Balkans, they were enslaved. Hitler wiped out more than 1.5 million Romani during the Holocaust.

Facing constant harassment, the culture became geared toward survival at all costs — even if it meant stealing and scrapping. According to the Gypsy elder, it led to an inverted value system. Gypsy children grow up hearing a bedtime story about how in Jerusalem, a Romani boy stole the fourth nail meant to kill Jesus on the cross. "Jesus then gave the Gypsies the right to steal," explains the Roma elder. "In a Gypsy's mind, if he does some roofing or driveway work and it costs $300 but he gets $900 for it, is that criminal?" Or clever?

But there's a line, he says. Cultural codes prohibit violence, as well as bleeding a victim dry. "Take a taste. Don't swallow."

Experts peg the number of Romani in the United States at 1 million, with close to 3,000 reportedly in South Florida, mostly clustered in south Broward County. Regardless of address, the Roma have consistently stood in a cultural airlock, keeping their customs and putting those who are non-Roma — called "gadje" in the culture's language — at a suspicious distance.

According to the elder, women are penned in by a series of strict rules meant to protect their purity. They can't handle dishes or walk in front of men when they're menstruating. Children don't go to school but learn from an early age the trade plied by their family. Boys might pick up paint and body work or metal scrapping; girls, fortunetelling.

In arranged marriages, a girl's dowry is based upon how much she can earn. The groom's family wants to set up their son with a woman who can support him. Negotiations are capped during a large party where the male heads of both households toast the deal with shots of Crown Royal. Although traditionally girls were married as young as 13, today 17 is more the standard age.

The community is organized by extended families, called "vitsas." A "kumpania" is a group of "vitsas." Disputes are settled by a "kris," a secret, male-only court of elders ("rom baros") that hands out fines ("glabas").

According to police in South Florida, Rom families have been linked to a number of petty but nonviolent scams. They'll knock on residential doors posing as utility workers, then steal jewelry or money. Some Gypsies have been known to stage auto accidents to bilk insurance money. Others heist precious metals. A "sweetheart swindle" is when young women romance lonely snowbirds to siphon off their finances. "Billies" are males who pull the same move on women.

"This is organized crime," says a law enforcement source who works undercover in Miami-Dade. "They're going to tell you that that's not the case, but I'm going to tell you that they are. They are organized in the sense that they know what they're doing, they speak a language no one else knows, and they work crimes together."

Today many Romani psychics work using websites and 800 numbers. George Eli (legal name: Steve Cola), a Roma filmmaker from Connecticut — and Rose Marks' cousin — equates it with life coaching.

"The prosecutors and the newspapers are calling her a 'fortuneteller.' What's important to know is that these are American words. The designated word within the culture is 'drabarni,' " Eli says. "The word for 'medicine' in our language is 'drab.' So what Rose really does, and what you guys call 'fortune­tellers,' are ancient medicine women."

Romani spirituality includes pieces of Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, Islam, and Roman Catholicism. Good energy flows from God (Del), negative energy from the Devil (Beng). The latter can turn up as curses (amria) or bad omens (prikaza). Dead spirits with grudges can target the living.

Only drabarni can combat the bad vibes, through prayers, candle burning, and charms such as crystals and coral necklaces. Some in America have turned the practice into businesses.

"This is a small, small group," Eli says. "There are 12 million [Roma] in Europe, 15 million worldwide. Believe me, they're not all drabarni."

As far as the assumptions police fix on the Roma, Eli says it's the oppressive labels the culture has always fought against.

"Americans are the type of people that embrace other cultures," he says. "But as far as government and law enforcement, that's when you find the racism and prejudice, in my opinion."

Still, although police have the Roma on their radar, they hardly ever go after them. Because if clients willingly hand over their money, where is the crime?


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22 comments
dontbefooled
dontbefooled like.author.displayName 1 Like

I've got a little test for any supposed psychics out there. This is open only to those that believe that they have psychic powers. 

I have written a random number down on a piece of paper. I am looking at the number right now. I will look at the number again from time to time. Simply channel my thoughts, and tell me the number. 


smdrpepper
smdrpepper topcommenter

@dontbefooled Just for the hell of it, 42!  And I havent an ounce of psychic anything.

NayaAerodiode
NayaAerodiode

These fortune tellers are selling hope, and honestly, I'd rather them make the profit from their sales than any of the other purveyors of hope out there - that is, politicians and religious organizations.  At least the fortune tellers only scam the willing, and they only spend the money on cars and vacations, rather than the really destructive things that churches and political organizations do.  If a fool is going to be separated from his money, I'd rather it go to these guys than preachers.

dontbefooled
dontbefooled like.author.displayName 1 Like

@NayaAerodiode These fortune tellers are cleaning out the entire bank accounts of their gullible victims in short order. 

Religious organizations usually take a small portion of your money over time, not all at once. For that reason, I would say that the fortune tells are worse. 

It's a little harder to avoid the government completely, so I'll ignore that point.

I will agree that belief in nonsense, like you get from religion, could lead you to belief systems that will allow you to get fleeced by gypsies. 

Your best defense is to have a world view that comports as closely to reality as possible. 

wingedwolfpsion
wingedwolfpsion

Please don't refer to these people as psychics.  They are NOT psychic. They are frauds.  There are many legitimate people out there who are trying to use their abilities honestly.  You may not believe in them, but THEY believe in themselves, and do their best to represent their skills honestly.  (Here's a hint - no one legitimate tells you that you're cursed, and offers to lift it for additional money - they'd either offer to lift it for free, or wouldn't offer at all.  Plus, that sort of thing is pretty rare (depending on where you live).

Also, haven't the Roma been discriminated against enough, without being implicated, as a people, in things like this?  Discrimination against Roma in the US has been less severe than in many other places.  Fueling it is reprehensible.

dontbefooled
dontbefooled

@wingedwolfpsion 

Sorry, it's all bullshit. Just degrees. If you believe in ANY of this nonsense, it's goodbye money!

wingedwolfpsion
wingedwolfpsion

@dontbefooled@wingedwolfpsionYour faith in the nonexistence of such things is no more legitimate than others beliefs in their existence. 

dontbefooled
dontbefooled

@wingedwolfpsion @dontbefooled 

Wrong again. You're just talking out your ass again. That's not the scientific method at all. You don't try to prove a negative. 

Psychic phenominon has not been PROVEN. It fails every time they attempt to demonstrate it in controlled scientific tests. That's why rational people discount it. If we believed in every wild assertion because it could not be disproven, we would believe a bunch of crazy stuff, as you appear to. And we would be in the right frame of mind to be ripped off like the poor souls in the stories above.

I'll be happy to change my belief system when new scientific evidence is presented. As for the rest of your screed, it's just more wild-ass conspiracy stuff to be discounted out of hand by rational people. 

wingedwolfpsion
wingedwolfpsion

@dontbefooled @wingedwolfpsion It's never been proven not to, either.  You confuse lack of proof with proof of lack - a common mistake among those who do not understand the scientific method, but are overly fond of their own belief system.  Any scientist would laugh at your statement (that things which are not proven can be discounted).  How incurious of you!  The reality is more complicated than you imagine it to be.  People with ability have far more to lose when proof comes, than they would have to gain.  The reaction of those who do not have ability would not be something any of us wants to see.  As a result, you will find few people with high level ability are willing to put themselves into a lab.  I would point out that our government is still using remote viewing, however.  They seem quite attached to top secret programs utilizing this ability which you discount...  Your confidence makes you the same as any other religious fanatic; make no mistake about that.

dontbefooled
dontbefooled

@wingedwolfpsion @dontbefooled 

Wrong! Psychic phenomenon has never been proven to exist. Until it is, it can be discounted entirely just like any other absurd claim that you want to pull out of your ass.


gypsyhunter
gypsyhunter

sometimes people are in dire need of answers to the problems in their life. When someone is already in a vulnerable place, seeing a psychic for direction may seem like the last resort. Nobody goes to a psychic already knowing that they are cursed. Perhaps they should change their con to something different bc it seems like everyone that goes to them is somehow cursed. While some psychics are not fraudulent and may offer words of wisdom, others are in for the kill. The difference is that these fraudulent fortune tellers are selling false hope to vulnerable people, they are stealing money by false pretense. If what they are doing was not criminal, they would not be arrested and prosecuted. More and more people are stepping up to the plate and going after them. The majority of them chose to remain illiterate and not assimilate into American society. They should go back to where they came from. They truly are disgusting people. If you have not experienced it, DONT knock it!

gypsyhunter
gypsyhunter

sometimes people are in dire need of answers to the problems in their life. When someone is already in a vulnerable place, seeing a psychic for direction may seem like the last resort. Nobody goes to a psychic already knowing that they are cursed. Perhaps they should change their con to something different bc it seems like everyone that goes to them is somehow cursed. While some psychics are not fraudulent and may offer words of wisdom, others are in for the kill. The difference is that these fraudulent fortune tellers are selling false hope to vulnerable people, they are stealing money by false pretense. If what they are doing was not criminal, they would not be arrested and prosecuted. More and more people are stepping up to the plate and going after them. The majority of them chose to remain illiterate and not assimilate into American society. They should go back to where they came from. They truly are disgusting people. If you have not experienced it, DONT knock it!

gypsyhunter
gypsyhunter

sometimes people are in dire need of answers to the problems in their life. When someone is already in a vulnerable place, seeing a psychic for direction may seem like the last resort. Nobody goes to a psychic already knowing that they are cursed. Perhaps they should change their con to something different bc it seems like everyone that goes to them is somehow cursed. While some psychics are not fraudulent and may offer words of wisdom, others are in for the kill. The difference is that these fraudulent fortune tellers are selling false hope to vulnerable people, they are stealing money by false pretense. If what they are doing was not criminal, they would not be arrested and prosecuted. More and more people are stepping up to the plate and going after them. The majority of them chose to remain illiterate and not assimilate into American society. They should go back to where they came from. They truly are disgusting people. If you have not experienced it, DONT knock it!

smdrpepper
smdrpepper topcommenter

People need to stop being gullible.  What these people did was truly horrific, but there are no laws that can prevent gullible people from giving money to these people.  Psychics do not exist.  If they did, do you think they would be working out of a crappy storefront or house?  

Apply logic.  If it does not make sense, dont take part.

gypsyhunter
gypsyhunter

@smdrpepper sometimes people are in dire need of answers to the problems in their life. When someone is already in a vulnerable place, seeing a psychic for direction may seem like the last resort. Nobody goes to a psychic already knowing that they are cursed. Perhaps they should change their con to something different bc it seems like everyone that goes to them is somehow cursed. While some psychics are not fraudulent and may offer words of wisdom, others are in for the kill. The difference is that these fraudulent fortune tellers are selling false hope to vulnerable people, they are stealing money by false pretense. If what they are doing was not criminal, they would not be arrested and prosecuted. More and more people are stepping up to the plate and going after them. The majority of them chose to remain illiterate and not assimilate into American society. They should go back to where they came from. They truly are disgusting people. If you have not experienced it, DONT knock it!

smdrpepper
smdrpepper topcommenter

@gypsyhunter @smdrpepper Its still fake.  There are no psychics and never have been.  All of them are out to take advantage of those people who are gullible and seeking answers for things when they just cannot blame themselves.

Sorry, but ALL psychics are fake and con artists.

dontbefooled
dontbefooled

@wingedwolfpsion @smdrpepper @gypsyhunter 

THEY may believe in what they do. That does not change the fact that what they believe in is untrue. If you believe in things that are untrue, then you are a sucker. A sheep ready to be fleeced. 


TBPlayer
TBPlayer

@wingedwolfpsion @smdrpepper @gypsyhunter There may be some people who honestly believe they are "psychic," but if so, they are deluded.  They may not be as morally culpable as the knowing frauds (the vast majority of "psychics," IMHO), but they probably do as much damage.

smdrpepper
smdrpepper topcommenter

@wingedwolfpsion @smdrpepper @gypsyhunter I agree, they believe in fleecing the gullible from their money.  Show me one bit of evidence that "psychic powers" exist and I will reconsider.  However, since there is no proof of any of these so called "psychics" have done anything but harm, any benefit they may have is purely a placebo.

 
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