A purported psychic who conned her victims out of $341,000 was sentenced Friday to six years in prison. Gina Marie Marks, 45, operated "Readings by Natalie" out of a home in Bethesda, Md., but the $100 tarot card readings she offered were just the beginning, the Washington Post reports. From there, she convinced clients to withdraw large amounts of cash and hide it in pillowcases or under mattresses so energy from their bodies could travel to the bills; then the clients were to give Marks the cash—the more they gave, the more committed they were to Marks' "spirit guides"—so she could put it on an altar at her church in order to break evil curses placed on the client or carry out spells for the client. If clients emptied their bank accounts, they were told to make pricey purchases like designer handbags, using a credit card, for the same ritual. Though clients were told the money and items would be returned, they never were.
Marks was convicted of defrauding five clients for amounts ranging from $2,655 to $153,400 each; she had pleaded guilty to felony theft in February, NBC Washington reports. Victims say if they balked at the amount of money they were told to hand over, Marks would accuse them of not taking the work seriously or warn them that their doubts would anger the spirit guides. She convinced them of her authenticity by using phone spoofing—she would tell a client someone (say, an ex over whom the client was heartbroken) would call on a certain day and time, but warn the client not to answer; phone spoofing allowed Marks to place the call from her own number, but make it appear as if it was coming from the ex's number. Marks, whose lawyer said she is prepared to pay almost $129,500 of the total amount due in restitution, insisted to the judge her work was legitimate and that she cared about her clients. To that, the judge said he felt he was being "scammed." (Read more psychic stories.)