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The Double Life of Nick the Cop

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The media didn't pick up on that story. In fact, not long after the incident, a Sun-Sentinel article under the headline, "Sheriff's deputy rejects lure of Gypsy lifestyle," stated instead that he'd been "disowned" by his family.

His enduring friendship with Uwanawich, who supposedly had fortunetelling shops in Dade and Broward counties at various times, was also free from public scrutiny. But there were more Gypsy connections. Nicholas also calls Uwanawich's older brother, who has a fortunetelling shop in Palm Beach County, a friend. Throw in Uwanawich's nephew, who operates a fortunetelling shop in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea. Then there's Uwanawich's niece, who runs an ofisa in Fort Lauderdale. And his sister-in-law, who operates in Dania. And, of course, Vine Miller, his "confidential informant," who also runs a fortunetelling shop in Broward County.

All of these Gypsies count John Nicholas as a friend, and all of them are active in what Nicholas terms the "life," the one he supposedly left, the one he calls organized crime, the one he's supposed to be fighting against.

But one Delray Beach Gypsy calls John Nicholas his enemy and says Nicholas has been using his position as a deputy to help those friends for years. His name is Jimmy Marks, the rival who lost out in the battle for a bride many years ago.

It's a small room, like a renovated walk-in closet, where fortunes are told by Linda Marks, a sturdy Gypsy woman who is a convicted fraud artist, according to police. The room is painted brownish gold and adorned with drawn angels, moons, and suns. It looks more like it was decorated by a kindergarten teacher than by a medium to the world of spirits. Outside that room is a tidy, glass-tiled waiting room for customers, where Linda's husband, Jimmy, sits on a brown leather sofa. He explains a few things about John Nicholas, who is known as "Nick the Cop" in Gypsy circles. Behind him and to his right is a strange-looking man with a goatee, squinty eyes, and a scrunched-up face. Never introduced, he occasionally breaks into the conversation in Rom.

Jimmy Marks is thin and dapper in a black golf shirt and spotless white pants. He wears a gold bracelet and a gold-faced watch. Over his bulging overbite is a pencil-thin mustache. His face is narrow, his nose and his ears pointy. His eyebrows are darker than his silver-and-black hair, which is neatly trained straight back over his head. If he were an animal, he'd be a fox.

He was one of the first Gypsies to openly question the power of old Bob Johnson, a Gypsy who was the Rom Baro of Palm Beach County for decades. Marks boldly refused to pay Johnson a tribute. Bob Johnson recently died, setting up Marks as a possible heir, an ambition many Gypsies say he has, but one he denies. "It's been said, but it's not so," he claims. "I just run my own thing."

Another Gypsy who has opened up shop in Palm Beach County is John Uwanawich's brother, Miller Uwanawich, a 66-year-old Gypsy who drives a shiny Mercedes and whose wife tells fortunes. Miller Uwanawich and Jimmy Marks are, because of the proximity of their businesses, bitter rivals, who, as Delray Beach police detective Jack Makler puts it, "feud like the Hatfields and McCoys." When asked about his relationship with Marks, Miller Uwanawich's remarks were first evasive, then crystal clear.

"I know of Jimmy Marks, but I don't know him."
He was then told of Marks' allegation that Deputy Nicholas plays favorites.
"Listen," Miller Uwanawich said loudly. "Jimmy Marks is a motherfucker! You got that? He's a son of a bitch! And you can quote me on that." Click.

A battle between these enemies broke out at a Gypsy council meeting held in a Denny's restaurant, or so goes the story in Gypsy circles. The Gypsy council meets in parks and in restaurants, usually in Hollywood, a middle ground. The council has been described as something of a Democratic affair, where Gypsies gather and hash out problems and hopefully come to a solution.

At the Denny's meeting, John Uwanawich had a problem to settle: He wanted to get his money back for the daughter-in-law he'd bought. She apparently wasn't working out.

Also at the meeting, according to Marks, was Vine Uwanawich (no relation to Vine Miller), John Uwanawich's nephew, who's first name is pronounced three different ways, depending on who's doing the talking: the Italian "Vinnie," the Russian-sounding "Vanya," and just like the climbing plant.

Marks says the council voted against John Uwanawich's attempt to get his money back. Uwanawich blamed Marks, and a fight broke out during which Vine Uwanawich put Marks in a headlock, Marks claims. Just another Gypsy night at Denny's.

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Journalist Bob Norman has been raking the muck of South Florida for the past 25 years. His work has led to criminal cases against corrupt politicians, the ouster of bad judges from the bench, and has garnered dozens of state, regional, and national awards.
Contact: Bob Norman