Donnie and Sandra Marks Ran ‘Readings By Catherine’ in Charlottesville
Charlottesville, VIRGINIA – The former business manager of a fortune-teller business located on Seminole Trail in Charlottesville was sentenced today in Federal court on charges that he committed mail fraud and laundered more than $1 million in money stolen from victims by his wife and co-defendant, Acting United States Attorney Rick A. Mountcastle announced.
Donny Stephen Marks, 43, of Charlottesville, previously pled guilty to one count of mail fraud and one count of money laundering. Today in U.S. District Court in Charlottesville, Donny Marks was sentenced to 33 months in federal prison and four years of supervised releases thereafter. His wife, Sandra Stephenson Marks, a.k.a. “Catherine Marks,” 42, also of Charlottesville, previously pled guilty to one count of mail fraud and one count of money laundering. In November 2016 she was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison. The two have been ordered to repay over $5.4 million in restitution to the victims of their scheme.
According to evidence presented at previous hearings by Assistant United States Attorney Ronald M. Huber, Sandra Marks and Donnie Marks operated the business “Readings by Catherine” on Seminole Trail in Charlottesville, which offered services such as palm readings, candle readings, tarot card readings, astrological readings and spiritual readings to clients. Sandra Marks provided direct customer services while Donnie Marks managed the affairs of the business.
Sandra Marks has admitted, through a statement of facts submitted to the court and signed by the defendant, that she enriched herself by telling her clients she was clairvoyant and able to see into the past and the future. Marks also said she told her clients she had a “gift from god” and was able to communicate with spirits and guides from god, including the “Prince of Illusion,” who relayed information to her about clients.
Sandra Marks further admitted that she would tell clients that she had learned from the spirits and guides that the client, and/or the client’s family, was suffering from a “curse” and a “dark cloud” that occurred in the past. Marks would tell clients they would need to make a sacrifice of large amounts of money and valuables, whereby she would bury the money and items in a box to be “cleansed.” Marks explained to her clients that the money and property would be returned once the “work” was complete. Additionally, Marks would tell the clients that the money and property would not be used for Marks’ own personal benefit.
Donny Marks role in the scheme was one of a business manager, both of his wife and the proceeds from the scheme. Donny Marks admitted through a signed statement of facts submitted to the court that he managed Sandra Marks’ work, opened business bank accounts and transferred funds between business and personal bank accounts.
Contrary to her representations to clients, Donnie Marks and Sandra Marks kept and used money and other valuables provided by their clients for their own personal use and enjoyment and that of their family. When Sandra and Donnie Marks had used all of a client’s money, Sandra and Donnie Marks would find new clients to fund the scheme, or tell old clients that additional money was required to continue her “work.”
The investigation of the case was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, the United States Postal Inspection Service, the United States Secret Service, the Virginia Attorney General’s Office and the Albemarle County Police Department. Assistant United States Attorney Ronald M. Huber prosecuted the case for the United States.