Fort Lauderdale Fortune Tellers Get Bond, But Can They Get a Fair Trial?

A federal judge recently set bond for several members of a Fort Lauderdale family accused of ripping off clients to the tune of more than $40 million over 20 years, the Sun Sentinel reports.

Charges of fraud in Fort Lauderdale are serious, especially in our current economy. Anyone accused of stealing money from someone, whether through a simple theft or an advanced scheme orchestrated over a period of years, should expect to see a big effort on the part of the government.
Because money is so tight for everyone — states, counties, cities and even individuals — police and prosecutors have been taking a hard-line stance against the crimes that may have gotten a little softer treatment in years past. For this reason, hiring an experienced Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Attorney who can handle the prosecutor and the media is important.

This case has the media in a frenzy because of the odd facts. A woman and eight family members were arrested this summer and charged with wire and mail fraud as well as money laundering and conspiracy charges in federal court. Prosecutors allege that the family preyed on vulnerable victims with promises that curses could be cleared, money cleansed and other promises. But the money went to their lifestyle, which included a large home, cars and jewelry.

Because of the media attention, which has been pervasive even overseas, new alleged victims have come forward, the newspaper states, saying they gave millions more in cash and jewelry to the family.

It’s unclear how prosecutors intend to show that the family, who were said to be fortune tellers, somehow coaxed money from patrons. Consumers have a right to spend their money as they wish.

But what may be more interesting is whether the defendants will get a fair trial. They must be allowed to get a panel of jurors who are fair and impartial and haven’t been saturated with the facts of the case. And given the intense media attention so far, that may be difficult.

One strategy by an experienced Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Attorney is to seek a gag order. A gag order comes from a motion filed with the court where a judge orders that attorneys and others involved in a case aren’t allowed to speak to the media. While reporters and some members of the public may be upset by such an action, sometimes it is necessary to slow down the flow of information.

If a person is to get a fair trial, their jury can’t know all the facts reported in the media ahead of time. Their decision of guilt or innocence must be made based on what they hear and see in court and from no place else. An experienced lawyer will help ensure that happens.

Sometimes that includes providing the media with information that helps the defendant. The media can be helpful to a client as well as hurtful. There is a delicate balance there that must be met, with the client’s interests always influencing the decision to address the media.

If you are arrested on grand theft charges in Fort Lauderdale or elsewhere in South Florida, contact Leifert & Leifert at 954-523-9600 or 561-988-8000 for a free consultation.

Additional Resources:

Judge sets bond for Fort Lauderdale fortune tellers, by Paula McMahon, Sun Sentinel

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