A family of fortune tellers is facing a host of federal fraud charges, accused of fleecing customers out of some $40 million.
But whether they are convicted may hinge, in part, on the actions of the lead detective, who the family now alleges accepted a business loan from one of the alleged victims, a well-known romance novelist.
Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers know that while not all cases are as high-profile, a good attorney must analyze every available aspect – and that includes not only the quality and details of the actual investigation, but any possible alternative motives held by witnesses, or potentially even those spearheading the case.
Here, nine family members are accused of a multimillion-dollar fortune-telling scam in which they allegedly told people that if their advice wasn’t followed, awful events would befall them.
Federal prosecutors are alleging that the individuals targeted by the fortune tellers were vulnerable, often having recently lost loved ones or jobs or otherwise enduring tough times. They were convinced to give the fortune tellers money, gold, jewelry and other valuables. The defendants reportedly promised not to spend the money. However, prosecutors say they then refused to return it.
In the case of the novelist, federal prosecutors say the family scammed her out of $20 million after telling her that her deceased son was “somewhere between heaven and hell.”
Authorities say the family operated in South Florida since the early 1990s. When authorities raided the home where they resided, they reportedly found hundreds of rings, watches, diamonds and upscale jewelry.
However, the defense has said that the family provided valuable counseling services to those with nowhere else to go. The family’s business was licensed by the state and operated with the full knowledge of local authorities as well.
They were arrested in August of last year. But now, as they await trial, new details have emerged about the relationship with the lead detective and one of the victims, who is slated to be one of the star witnesses against the defendants.
According to the family, the primary investigator in the case has part ownership in a local gym. It’s alleged that he borrowed tens of thousands of dollars for the venture from the novelist back in July of last year, just before the family was arrested. The novelist was reportedly repaid just a month later.
The family also alleges that the detective and his businesses received more money from the witness, and say that prosecutors have actively sought to conceal this fact, which essentially amounts to an improper relationship that would cast doubt on the prosecutors’ case.
The investigator maintains he’s done nothing wrong. He also denies allegations that he helped the novelist edit one of her books for profit.
The defense team is requesting that prosecutors turn over any and all evidence of the alleged business deals. If those claims are validated, it’s possible the defense could ask the judge to dismiss charges against each of the family members, who have pleaded not guilty.
We can’t say what the future holds for this case, but we know that if you are facing criminal charges, having an experienced and aggressive criminal defense lawyer on your side often makes all the difference.