"It wasn't something I was raised to believe in. I was hesitant," she says. But despite the weird window-dressing, Nadine's message echoed what Wilson had been telling herself: It's time to get your life on track. "That clicked with me."

Wilson was given strict orders. She bathed with sea salts and milk and burned sage in all the rooms of her house. Wilson emailed Hillarie images of the features she wanted: Rihanna's lips, Megan Fox's eyes. She was instructed to scatter flower petals over a white sheet, as well as cash — five $100s, four $50s, three $10s, two $5s, and a single. After wrapping herself in the sheet, she handed over the money for the psychics to cleanse.

Soon, Wilson was tapped for $900 for a set of urns. These were to be sculpted into the body she wanted. Nadine sent her to Saks, J.Crew, and Bloomingdale's; she opened credit cards to buy high-end outfits. The purchases were dropped off to Hillarie to dress the sculptured urns in the clothing. Wilson was promised the clothes back — once the work was complete. When Wilson used a Gucci purse one night before turning it over to Hillarie, Nadine angrily demanded she exchange it for an unused one.

Eventually, the psychic pair discovered that Wilson had been cursed by a Louisiana voodoo priestess hired by the current wife of an ex-boyfriend. New York, the fashion world, the body she wanted, happiness — it all depended on shaking the curse.

Wilson burned through almost $30,000. She maxed out five new credit cards, plus three she already had.

"What are you doing?" she'd plead with herself. "You don't just give people money like this."

But she was in so deep, it was hard to hit reverse. It would mean admitting she'd been gullible enough to step into the trap. "[Psychics] have you do the most embarrassing things," she explains, "because, then, are you really going to tell people about it?"

When the Rose Marks case heads to trial this August, the family matriarch will stand alone. All nine codefendants in her federal case have pleaded guilty. If convicted, Marks faces 20 years in prison.

Jude Deveraux has yet to publicly discuss her time with Marks, but what's known follows a familiar script: Emotionally rocked after a divorce in the late '90s and the death of her 8-year-old son in 2005, the writer reportedly leaned on the psychic for support. In turn, Marks convinced Deveraux her son was marooned between heaven and hell. Along the way, the writer willingly parted with $17 million.

Jurors will have to decide: empathetic victim or idiotic sucker?

"I can't express strongly enough what a monumental effort it takes when attempting to help the victims of fraudulent fortunetellers in South and Central Florida navigate their way through a criminal justice system that is often extremely unsympathetic toward their plight," says Bob Nygaard. "I've had these criminals call me up and tell me Florida is open season for them — they love it. They laugh about it because the prosecutors don't prosecute."

Bald and linebacker-bulky, Nygaard is a private investigator specializing in swindles, particularly cases involving American Roms in New York City and South Florida, the two hotbeds. The retired Nassau County cop gets opposite responses in the two jurisdictions. New York prosecutes these cases. Florida doesn't.

"I've brought three recent cases to the NYPD and the Manhattan prosecutor's office. No problem," he says. "The whole culture of law enforcement down here is a lack of will to do these cases."

Nygaard can pick apart a scam like a mechanic stripping an engine. The frauds often follow a similar structure, he says. To gauge a victim's willingness to follow, psychics will give out a to-do list, each request wilder than the last. To sink the hook, they'll take a grapefruit or egg that the victim provides and swap it with one they've already injected with ink or hair — "proof" of an evil spirit. They'll forbid talking about the work with others. They'll coo praise one minute, then bully with guilt the next.

When the veil drops, victims face financial wreckage. But Nygaard guesses only one out of 50 fortunetelling victims comes forward. "A lot of people call me, and they just want to talk, tell me what happened. But they don't want to go forward. They're too embarrassed. They don't want to see their name in the papers."

Beaming in over Skype from England, Iiyah her head. Her face twists into an embarrassed smile before deflating. She still doesn't know much about "Sienna Miller" or where her $140,000 went — but she never got an Egyptian temple. "It sounds so stupid," she says.

Four years after she was scammed, Iiyah is badly in debt. She's begged for help from police. English police told her to contact authorities in South Florida. She says she buzzed Hollywood, Hallandale Beach, and the Broward Sheriff's Office only to be told this was a civil, not a criminal, matter. She's too broke to sue.

"I don't know who I am after this," she says. "It's been really, really hard."

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Exiliado topcommenter

What these fortune tellers A.K.A scammers do is despicable and disgusting, but some people need to grow up. Anyone who spends more than 50 cents on "psychic services" is just proving to be a gullible sucker. Gullible suckers usually end up being ripped off. It's in their nature.

frankd4 topcommenter


as for the BSO being any assistance in prosecuting frauds,  let me remind you that BSO was bought by SCOTT ROTHSTEIN, so because BSO is "for sale" and the biggest scammer used the ft lauderdale based LEOs to "serve and protect" HIM ....................... what do you expect of the BSO ?

its' the FOX gaurding the HEN house here in broward county

frankd4 topcommenter


i guess BERNIE MADOFF is the KING of all GYPSIES

...........a fool and his money is soon parted

whether its GAMBLING or SHOPPING or HOBBIES or RELIGION the money lost/spent/donated is typically IN EXCHANGE FOR something....and that something can simply be puffery

MADISON AVENUE ADVERTISING depends on puffery as do gypsies

desperate people will do desperate things and pissing MONEY away is the least of it, some commit suicide or do drugs or fall into the bottle or pursue other dangerous outlets, so going broke it low on the list HOWEVER despicable it is morally and ethically to dupe vulnerable people


No offense, but I happen to know Gypsies and not all are mystics, most in fact assimilate to whatever culture they're in and become a part of the most popular religion

And the Gypsies that use magic charge only $10 a reading. I know, I study with some of them.



I want to congratulate you on a very fascinating article.  It's hard to believe that fortune tellers can make so much money.  On The Twilight Zone many years ago, there was an episode about a couple who were in a diner, and at their table was a "fortune telling machine." After depositing a quarter, the machine would predict  the future..  At first, the couple thought this was fun, but as they kept depositing money, the machine told them very accurate things about their lives.  In the end, the couple could not leave the table.  The machine told them that if they did, they would die.  I saw that as a child, and it still haunts me.  Who knows, maybe the couple is still in the diner.




For the deep background on this story, read Jan Yoors' famous sociological study of the Rom called "The Gypsies." It's kind of old (1960s) but totally valid. 


Please explain to me how the Gypsies are different than the Catholic church? I don't see a bit of difference between the two other than Gypsies  don't molest little boys.

frankd4 topcommenter


being a GYPSIE designates an unwelcome and uninvited OUTSIDER and any inclusion signifies an illegitimate purpose - to EXCLUDE gypsies is cleansing

being a CATHOLIC means you have to be at the table in any major discussion for that purpose to be legitimate - to EXCLUDE catholics is typically illegal and socially questionable and not PC

frankd4 topcommenter


mystical faith-based organizations are the SAME in that they value continued survival including financial support from congregants and believers

the GYPSIEs take advantage of desperate people in a surreptitious way and makes people PAY to obtain their salvation

the CATHOLIC CHURCH uses the interpretations of text as a basis for its faith and salvation is earned by following a certain path and requests donations to continue funding the resources required to maintain the organization infastructure (until MARTIN LUTHER the CHURCH and GYPSIEs were similar in demanding MONEY to effect change (indulgences))

the GYPSIEs get people to FALL PREY while the CHURCH requires members to BE FAITHFUL


@Rabbi_Pedro_Goldstein Truth be told, all religions are nothing but superstition, designed to psychologically control the masses, and enrich those in charge

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