When we were diving into the world of fortuneteller fraud for a feature story earlier this year, what hit us over the head as incredible was how often scammers would simply use the same schtick on the victims. Every scam had a similar textbook pattern, down to the types of victims targeted to the purported curses causing their grief. Even the same terminology -- doing the "work" to "cleanse." Already, those old plays are making it into the testimony at Rose Marks' trial this week.
Prosecutors are expected to call more than a dozen former Marks' clients crying foul. The first two up to the plate this week recounted how they were scammed into handing over thousands of dollars to the 62-year-old Rom psychic. Let's go down the checklist.
Emotionally fragile victims? Check.
According to the Sun Sentinel, the first woman to testify in court was 72-year-old Deanna Wolfe. Back in 1980, the McLean, Virginia, resident was heartstick for a guy she'd met earlier. That was the "in" Marks allegedly needed to sink the hook. The second witness, an Englishwoman named Susan Abraham, also washed up in Marks' zone of influence after her marriage soured.
Ancient curses? Yup.
Wolfe testified the fortunetellers told her that she was suffering from curses down through the ages and that her payments today would make up for past human sacrifices. Abraham said the fortunetellers told her she and her husband weren't getting along because back in the 1600s, they'd been warriors vying against each other and that the husband had eventually killed her.
Big money? Bingo.
Wolfe estimated she handed over $1 million for the psychic work over 30 years, including cosigning on credit cards at fancy-pants department stores like Neiman Marcus. Abraham's tally came to $300,000.
Now, you have to wonder if these fortunetellers are really so daft as to never shake up the game plan, vary the details, at least for the purposes of avoiding a courtroom of possible prosecution witnesses. But if it works, why change it? On the other hand, because these scams are so formulaic, it would also be easy for someone to BS their way through a false claim. Stay tuned for more thoughts about the trial.