A five-day trial for a Lafayette psychic accused of stealing thousands of dollars from clients opened Monday.
Nancy Marks, 55, owned Psychic Reading, 707 S. Public Road, in Lafayette. She is accused of 14 counts of theft and two counts of tax evasion.
According to police and court records, seven victims told police that Marks said she needed their cash to "draw out the bad energy" and their credit card numbers to see how frequently the number 6 appeared. Marks then refused to return the cash and used the credit cards to make purchases at Macy's, Target and Sears, the police report said.
Marks is accused of stealing almost $300,000.
Deputy District Attorney Michael Foote told a jury of six men and six women that Marks preyed on vulnerable people and moved slowly and carefully in order to build trust.
She didn't start out by asking for large amounts of money, Foote said. Rather, she would first suggest a meditation session or that a client use particular bath salts. Then, she would suggest that clients withdraw money in particular denominations and perform minor rituals with it themselves.
When the clients' personal problems continued, Marks would suggest more "work" was needed and ask them to give her the money for safekeeping. One a few occasions, she returned small amounts in an attempt to pacify an angry former client, but the majority of the money was never returned, Foote said.
Foote said the case would not be one of theft if Marks had merely charged money for services like palm reading.
"Where it turns into theft is where she gets these people to turn over thousands and thousands of dollars under the pretense that it would be kept by her for safekeeping and retuned to them," Foote said. "Other than these token amounts, she never returned any of it."
Defense attorney Ingrid DeFranco said that Marks' alleged victims are sophisticated people who used hundreds of hours of services from Marks to ease their guilty consciences about their own bad acts, then "sacrificed" her once they were done with her.
DeFranco said Marks is not a "fortune-teller," but believes she has a gift for helping people through psychic work and that belief is part of the religion in which Marks was raised.
DeFranco said the accusations closely resemble other cases of "psychic fraud" because the alleged victims researched other cases on the Internet and designed their allegations to match a profile. She also said records don't confirm the supposedly large amounts of money given to Marks by the victims.
Marks originally was scheduled to go to trial in October, but she didn't show up for her court date because she was in the hospital. The trial was rescheduled for this week.