One of the more made-for-TV courtroom dramas to roll out of Broward recently involves Rose Marks.
The matriarch of a Fort Lauderdale family of fortunetellers, Marks schemed $25 million from a best-selling romance novelist and other victims, or so say federal prosecutors. The psychic herself has been proclaiming innocence since she was first indicted along with ten members of her family in 2011.
But when Marks voiced her side of the story to the Sun Sentinel late last December, prosecutors were apparently pissed off.
In retaliation, they've unleashed the IRS on the psychic -- a surprise move in a situation in which the feds have been accused of going too far already.
According to the government, Marks used her influence to fleece millions from Jude Deveraux, the author behind titles like Secrets, Always, and Forever. The two first met at Marks' Manhattan psychic shop in 1991. The client was at a low point due to romantic difficulties; Marks and Deveraux quickly formed a close relationship. Prosecutors say the psychic used the bond to grab millions from the author.
Marks, however, told the Sun Sentinel she just provided a service to a paying client.
"We came to an understanding that if I'm supposed to shut down my business and just work with her exclusively, then it would be, you know, expensive. She would have to pay me for 24 hours a day at her beck and call," Marks said in her interview.
"I doubt anyone can imagine what me and this woman shared, and it was work, it was hard work... It was seven days a week, Christmas, New Year's, Thanksgiving, all the holidays I had to spend with her. If I spent maybe one or two days out of a month with my family, it was doing good."
As a result of the interview, Assistant U.S. Attorney Roger Stefin shot over a pissy letter to Marks' attorney, Fred Schwartz, on February 27. The short missive says the prosecutor has asked the IRS to open a criminal investigation into Marks.
Although the tax issue was always "out there," it came back into focus after your client recently gave an interview to the Sun-Sentinel, in which she professed innocence of defrauding anyone, claiming that all the money she received from Jude was legitimate earnings (or fees). Of course that begs the question as to why the defendant didn't report the many millions of dollars that she "earned" from Jude, as well as from other clients, if she believed these were legitimate fees. And although the statute has run on many of the relevant tax years, there appears to be several viable years remaining
Now's a good time to point out that the government's investigation into the psychic has been bungled from the early innings. During the initial presentation to a grand jury, prosecutors included the names of victims who, it turns out, had never been interviewed by investigators.
Also, the government stepped in on behalf of Deveraux in another matter, and the romance novelist reportedly invested money in a gym owned by one main detective on the case (he gave it back, claiming he didn't know his partners had accepted the investment).
Now, experts say psychic fraud cases are extremely difficult to prosecute. But the feds' record in the Marks' investigation isn't just all-thumbs; it's amateur hour at best, overzealous at worst. Not exactly the kind of jurisprudence you'd expect from Uncle Sam.
"I'm disappointed by the shameful conduct of the government here," a federal judge said in court recently. "There's much about the government's conduct in this case that's very troubling."
The IRS' involvement seems to still be in the wind-up at this point. The Broward County courts don't show any government liens on the psychic. Marks' attorney brought up the letter in a court hearing last week. He believes the investigation is tied to recent motions to dismiss due to the government's behavior.
"I believe that the tax investigation is a vindictive attempt to punish Rose for claiming government misconduct," Schwartz tells New Times. "And also an attempt to intimidate her into pleading guilty rather than going to trial."
The trial is set for April.