FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - A Fort Lauderdale fortune teller charged in a psychic fraud scam won a federal judge's approval Friday to seek work with an online psychic service.
Vivian Marks, 22, and eight family members were charged last year with operating a multi-million fraud and a judge banned them from working as spiritual guides or psychics.
U.S. Magistrate Judge James Hopkins said that should Marks get hired, he felt the online company had sufficient safeguards in place to ensure that Marks doesn't engage in fraudulent activity and that it would be constructive for her to engage in "lawful employment" while working toward an online GED.
Outside of court, Marks, immaculately coifed and manicured in a Navy blue skirt, jacket and polka dot scarf, demurely said she was relieved by the judge's decision: "Yes, this gives me an opportunity."
After her August 2011 arrest, Marks was jailed for a few weeks and then placed on house arrest. She was later released from the house arrest restrictions.
With no more than a third-grade education and limited work skills beyond her "God-given talent of fortune telling," Marks has been unable to find employment other than a short stint as a hostess at Sage Restaurant, her defense attorney, Edward Reagan, said.
In asking permission for Marks to apply for a job as a "spiritual advisor and/or fortune teller" for an online psychic service that provides "advice and professional consulting services," Reagan likened Marks to children of firefighters who become firefighters.
"Children of fortune tellers become the same thing that their parents are," Reagan said. "This is a long tradition that the family has."
While federal prosecutors said it is not against the law to tell fortunes, they objected to Marks being allowed to work in the spiritual field.
"By letting her get back into the business," Assistant U.S. Attorney Laurence Bardfeld argued. "I think we run into a slippery slope…I just don't want them to have any opportunities to commit that type of fraud again."
Reagan said there were sufficient "levels of protection" because the online company records and monitors calls between clients and psychics, no offline communication is permitted, and all monetary transactions would be handled by credit card through the company.
"I'm convinced that this situation that has been proposed does offer an opportunity for the defendant to engage in lawful employment while still minimizing the ability to engage in [fraudulent] activity," Hopkins ruled.
Prosecutors say Marks and several family members defrauded clients — including author Jude Deveraux — out of millions of dollars by claiming they could tell the future and clear curses. The alleged crimes arose from promising to return money if the clients were not pleased, then failing to do so, prosecutors said.
All nine members of the family who are charged with crimes have pleaded not guilty.
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