FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla., Aug. 21 (UPI) -- Federal authorities in Florida have arrested members of a family of self-styled fortunetellers who allegedly swindled a best-selling writer out of $20 million.
The alleged victim's identity was not revealed; however the South Florida Sun Sentinel said multiple sources identified her as 63-year-old romance novelist Jude Deveraux.
The newspaper said the victim had lost a young son in a traffic accident and apparently turned to the fortunetellers for comfort.
The unidentified author was not the only victim of the alleged scammers, whom investigators said stole a total of about $40 million. Others included a man from Japan and a woman with a brain tumor who now faces eviction. All were allegedly badgered into giving up cash or jewelry to the so-called psychic or else even worse fates would befall them and their families.
"If you understood the severity of what these victims were going through, it makes more sense," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Laurence Bardfield.
The suspects were identified as an American gypsy family that ran a chain of psychic storefronts in the Fort Lauderdale area.
The matriarch, Rose Marks, 60, faces 27 years in prison if convicted. Her attorney said Marks provided counseling to people who were on the ropes and noted that telling fortunes is not illegal.