In My Opinion

Fred Grimm: In South Florida, psychic fraud is a family affair

Peaches? Come on. Really?

Sorry, but Peaches T. Miller does not conjure up images of voodoo queens and black magic and evil curses and a scam worth $838,000.

To be fair, Peaches’ well-do-to Indian-American victim from Sunnydale, Calif., thought she was dealing with a mysterious psychic intervener named Shanna.

The woman had been lured to Peaches by an ad in a publication called India Abroad: “ Worried-Troubled-Confused?” The ad offered the services of “India’s best renowned Psychic Shanna.”

Eight years later, Shanna’s client was out the $838,000 she had turned over to her trusted healer to properly cleanse it of an evil voodoo curse.

As it turned out, India’s renowned Shanna was actually Pompano Beach’s less-than-renowned Peaches T. Miller, the latest in a long and ignominious string of South Florida psychic scammers. Most of them related.

She was hunted down by private investigator Bob Nygaard, whose work led to her arrest in Broward County. Nygaard has made a speciality out of chasing down these felonious fortunetellers.

Nygaard, based in Boca Raton, usually doesn’t need to travel far. He described South Florida as a kind of safe haven for mystic miscreants, blaming an utter lack of interest in prosecutions by the state attorneys in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.

In 2008, the detective nabbed the infamous Gina Marie Marks of Hollywood — author of the 2006 memoir (as Regina Milbourne) Miami Psychic: Confessions of a Confidante — twice for a similar psychic money-laundering scam. He tracked down Marks after she persuaded five clients to turn over about $65,000 to be cleansed of evil spirits. She pleaded guilty and got probation.

Her psychic powers, however, could not be contained by some temporal decree. Two years later, Nygaard nabbed her again, this time for a $504,000 fraud. Marks was sentenced to 18 months in prison.

Mind you, Gina Marks is not be confused with Rose Marks, the Roma matriarch whose fortune-telling family amassed a $40 million fortune, including a waterfront mansion in Fort Lauderdale.

Rose and clan were finally busted in 2011, charged with running a spiritual extortion racket. Either pay up, and big, or else the likes of the Archangel Michael would wreak havoc. Eight of the nine members of the family pleaded guilty in March. Momma Rose, however, still awaits trial.

Then there was Linda Marks, who pleaded guilty to a fortune-telling fraud scheme in 2006, along with Delray Beach policeman Jack Mackler, who was greasing her operation.

Nygaard sent me a kind of fraudster’s family tree Monday evening. “Gina Marie Marks’ father is John Uwanawich. Gina Marie Marks’ brother is Gino Uwanawich. Peaches Miller’s estranged gypsy husband is Gino Uwanawich, making Peaches Miller Gina’s estranged sister-in-law.”

Also, Gina’s daughter Hillarie Miller was implicated last year in yet another fortune-telling scheme. Hillarie, Peaches’ niece, is still at large.

When it comes to psychic fraud, South Florida style, it’s all relative.

Read more Fred Grimm stories from the Miami Herald

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