|BARBI JUDE DEVERAUX|
a psychic's defense claims bias and misconduct in fraud investigation.
Matriarch Rose Marks and several family members and associates were arrested in August, accused of operating a 20-year scam against their clients. The high-profile case includes allegations the family defrauded bestselling romance novelist Jude Deveraux of about $20 million.
But since the charges were filed, at least one man the prosecution labeled a victim, John Cleary, has filed a sworn statement that he was no dupe and that he willingly gave his money to one of the accused psychics, Victoria Eli.
Cleary, who hired a Pennsylvania lawyer, wrote that he considered Eli his "personal life coach" for the last 12 years and that she counseled him and they engaged in "prayer and meditation."
"Once this matter is cleared up, I look forward to continuing my counseling sessions with Ms. Eli. I rely on her advice and counsel and believe it has enabled me to live a very productive life," Cleary wrote.
At court hearings, prosecutors said some of the alleged victims were embarrassed, and in some cases, initially unwilling to accept that they were defrauded.
The defense now claims to have evidence that some of the victims were improperly pressured by prosecution investigators who, they said, hinted that victims could face IRS audits or other unwelcome attention.
Federal prosecutors declined to comment Wednesday but said they will file written responses with the court. The defendants have been under house arrest since their arrests in late summer.
Cleary told defense investigators that although the grand jury indictment included specific allegations that he had been victimized, federal authorities only questioned him after the indictment was filed.
When Cleary was eventually questioned by government agents, he and his lawyer felt they took a "prodding approach" that was designed to turn "a satisfied client into a 'victim.'"
Another two clients of the psychics told defense investigators that they thought federal agents were pressuring them to testify that they were victims, though neither one believes they were defrauded.
The defense also alleged that the chief investigator on the case, retired Fort Lauderdale Detective Charles Stack, has developed a close personal friendship with the author, Deveraux.