On the first page of her recently released HarperCollins book Miami Psychic, self-proclaimed clairvoyant Regina Milbourne writes:
"Because I believe I got the gift directly from God, I felt I had to do something with it. For more than fifteen years, I dedicated my life to helping anyone who needed help. Seduced by the power and the money it brought, I also took my share of the pie.
"But now I am done.
"With this book I will end my career as a master psychic."
Too bad it isn't true. Milbourne hasn't stopped working as a fortuneteller. In fact she recently created a Website where she recites her supernatural credentials and urges people to "Call Today!" and "Start Building a Better Tomorrow!"
And that's just the beginning of the factual problems in the book, which was co-written with Miami Herald contributor Yvonne Carey. Miami Psychic is, unfortunately, a load of bunk. So much so that the name "Regina Milbourne" will surely be mentioned in the pantheon of recent sham authors.
HarperCollins claims to be unaware the author's real name isn't Regina Milbourne. According to her driver's license, it is Gina Marie Marks, and she's part of a notorious Gypsy criminal family who has personally been involved in well-documented fortunetelling scams.
But you wouldn't know that if you read the book, which was released by Regan Books, a HarperCollins subsidiary run by publishing diva Judith Regan. When initially questioned last month about Milbourne, publicist Jennifer Brunn said, as far as the publishing house knew, the author was using her real name. Brunn also said HarperCollins would look into the allegations.
They haven't returned New Times's phone calls since. Marks has lived most of the past decade in Hollywood and Dania. Her meandering and contradictory book goes so far as to refer to Weston as "Reston," the giant developer Arvida as "Vidarva," and Mickey Mouse, no kidding, as "Mutton Mouse."
And the entire book hinges on one giant lie: that "Milbourne" is a put-upon heroine, a psychic with a heart of gold who keeps getting dragged down by unscrupulous clients. She complains about racism against Gypsies, likens herself to an "unlicensed psychologist," and makes sweeping claims about the good work she's done for humanity.
The truth about Marks may best be learned in police files in San Mateo County, California. And if those reports are to be believed, Marks is no psychic. She's just an interstate predator.
Here's the story, according to reports: Back in 1999, Marks did a call-in radio show that aired in San Francisco. She simply phoned it in from her fortunetelling shop in Hollywood and paid $300 for the airtime.
A woman in California heard the show and called a 1-800 number. The "psychic" then convinced her that all of her problems were the result of "dirty money" and persuaded the woman to withdraw $9,900 from the bank each day until she had $75,000 in hand.
On January 5, 2000, Marks told the victim to put the cash in a pillowcase and meet her in a hotel room. There the future Regan Books author rubbed cream on the victim's chest and prayed over the money. "Marks convinced the victim that she had to take the money to a secret shrine in San Jose in order to continue cleansing it," according to reports. "Marks took the $75,000 and subsequently refused to return it."
It's a little anecdote that isn't mentioned in the book.
During the same time period, another of Marks's marks complained to detectives that the master psychic had ripped off $45,000 in a similar manner, only this time the victim flew the money to South Florida and handed it over to her.
When police began an investigation, Marks's attorney, Jim Lewis, arranged that full restitution be paid to the victims. The San Mateo County District Attorney's Office agreed not to file charges.
Lewis, who is known for representing the young killer Lionel Tate, confirmed he'd arranged for the restitution. He also confirmed that Marks and Regina Milbourne are the same person (Milbourne is her "stage name" in the fortunetelling business, he said).
Evidence of Milbourne's true identity is plentiful. At her former psychic office in Weston, where she used the name Regina Milbourne, the occupational license was in the name of her Gypsy husband, Sunny Miller (who is called "Romy" in the book). Sunny and Gina have left a trail of public records behind them, and a police mug shot of Marks clearly matches the photographs in the book.
Marks belongs to the Uwanawich tribe of Gypsies, which is led in South Florida by John Uwanawich, a convicted felon. An anonymous Miami Psychic reviewer on Amazon.com who claimed to be a police officer wrote that the author is actually the daughter of John Uwanawich, who uses the alias Johnny Gee. Although that couldn't be confirmed, Broward County Property Appraiser records show that Marks and her husband quit-claimed their Dania Beach house to Uwanawich and his wife, Betty Jo Ephraim, in 2001. Ephraim also goes by the names Helen Uwanawich and Estee Lee and has been convicted of fortunetelling swindles in the past. Ephraim's sister, Krista Unich, was recently convicted on theft and conspiracy charges in Delaware.
Even some Gypsy fortunetellers in South Florida say the book is nonsense. "I thought it was the stupidest thing I've ever read in my life," says Gina Johnson, who asked that her location not be revealed. "I feel sorry for the woman who she wrote the book with. That could really hurt her reputation, couldn't it?"
Johnson is speaking of Carey, Marks's co-author, who has freelanced for the Herald for the past several years. The book sprang from an article Carey wrote in the Herald that was published in 2004. Here's the beginning of that story: "Curiosity doesn't necessarily kill cats or people," according to Regina Milbourne.
In fact a near-fatal accident at age eleven turned into a psychic gift, she said. A curious girl, she went swimming without telling her family and nearly drowned. She figures she was dead, without a heartbeat, for five minutes. "I saw a white light but was told not to enter. I heard angels talking. I had a duty to fulfill on Earth," Milbourne is quoted as saying.
In the book, Marks brags about how much money she has, mentions early and often that she drives a Bentley, constantly drops brand names (Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Cartier), and writes about her own beauty at times as if she were Helen of Troy.
She repeatedly indicates to the reader that she despises her clients and loves only their money.
And that just may be the truth.