The business known as Readings by Catherine on U.S. 29 north became even more intriguing when it was raided by federal officers last summer. No charges were filed, and its owner, Sandra Marks, 40, a.k.a. Catherine Marks, disappeared until she was arrested last week and appeared at a bond hearing in New York for a 34-count indictment that accuses her of bilking clients of nearly $3.7 million.
Some of the victims walked into her business for palm readings, candle readings, tarot card readings, astrological readings and spiritual readings, and often they’d suffered traumatic events and were “emotionally vulnerable, fragile and/or gullible,” according to the indictment.
And some met Marks at Synchronicity Foundation for Modern Spirituality in Nelson County, where Master Charles Cannon, “a modern mystic,” according to its website, “delivers a living spirituality relevant to our times that awakens us to our source and unveils the experience of true holistic reality as one blissful consciousness.”
Marks’ role at Synchronicity was that of an outside consultant who offered her readings, says Bobbie Garvey, the foundation’s managing director. “We had nothing to do with her other than we allowed her to offer her services,” much like massage therapists do at the Faber retreat, says Garvey, who declined to comment on Marks or the charges against her, suggesting a reporter speak to her alleged victims.
Kerry Skurski from Evergreen, Colorado, was one of those victims, says her ex-husband, Mike Skurski, who contacted C-VILLE in April following a story, “Dark Cloud: No charges filed in Psychic Catherine raid.” She’s listed in the indictment by the initials K.S., and made wire transfers to Marks totaling $270,000.
Skurski had ALS, says her ex. The devastating degenerative neurological disorder robs sufferers of their ability to move, to speak, and, ultimately, to breathe. It is invariably fatal. “She tried anything and everything beyond Western medicine to extend her life,” including going to Synchronicity, where Skurski says Master Charles encouraged her to see Catherine Marks.
Synchronicity did not respond to a subsequent e-mail to comment on allegations that Master Charles recommended Marks.
Kerry Skurski’s illness left her vulnerable to Marks’ claims of being a clairvoyant with a “gift from God,” believes her ex-husband. His own estimate of how much Marks took from Kerry is around $400,000 over two-and-a-half years, “about half of her net worth.”
According to the indictment, Marks would tell clients that they or their families suffered a curse and “dark cloud,” and to be cleansed, they’d have to sacrifice money and jewelry because “money was the root of all evil.” Marks says the “Prince of Illusion” would let her know how much money would be needed, according to court documents.
Marks, who preferred cash, told her victims she would bury the valuables and cleanse them through prayer, rituals and meditation, says the indictment, and then return them. Instead, she kept the money in most cases, returning it in a few instances upon threats of legal action.
Often she told clients they needed to keep the money coming or the work would be undone and harm the client or the client’s family or loved one, says the indictment.
For instance, J.D. in Kentucky gave Marks nearly $1.4 million in 2011 and 2012 in amounts ranging from $13,000 to $200,000, according to the indictment’s lengthy listing of the 31 wire fraud counts against Marks. She is also charged with two counts of mail fraud for a contract J.D. sent her that detailed $720,000 given to Marks.
D.A. from Tennessee sent Marks $920,000 in 12 transactions between 2010 and 2013. And D.R. and A.R. from North Carolina wired her $231,000 between 2012 and 2013.
Not mentioned in the indictment is Donnie Marks, who helped run the business at 4621 Seminole Trail, according to the search warrant for last summer’s raid.
The warrant noted that in 2013, Sandra Marks saw a dark energy around a confidential witness who had recently received a large inheritance, and Marks told the woman she’d need $180,000 to get rid of the dark energy. The witness gave Marks $110,000, which the Markses deposited and spent almost immediately, including $17,100 for a 1968 Camaro purchased by Donnie Marks, says the warrant.
Marks demanded another $140,000 to continue the cleansing, and conversations between Marks and the confidential witness in April and May 2014 were monitored by a Department of Homeland Security agent, according to the search warrant. One of the counts in the indictment is for a May 7, 2014, telephone conversation between Marks and K.C., presumably the confidential witness, about the $180,000.
Victim Kerry Skurski died February 28. Mike Skurski says he talked to Marks the day after Kerry’s death, and then her phone number changed.
“We’ll never get any restitution,” he said before Marks was arrested, but he wanted the public to know to “save the next person.” C-VILLE has been unable to reach him through multiple phone calls since the indictments
Marks will appear in court in Charlottesville in the U.S. District Court, but a hearing had not been scheduled at press time.