2/17/2017 - OKC, OK -- (as published at NewsOK.com by Kyle Schwab) - Fortune telling for a fee has been illegal in Oklahoma since 1915 but the law is rarely enforced.
The unusual charge, though, has been filed against an Oklahoma City psychic who could see jail in her future if convicted. The next court date is in March.
Sonia Lisa Marks, 52, is accused of illegally operating "Mrs. Maples Psychic Reader" at 4445 SW 33. Her attorney says Marks was "targeted" for prosecution of an outdated and unenforced law.
"They want to turn this into some criminal act, which to me is just a joke," defense attorney Scott Adams said. "I wish someone could explain to me what is so horrible about someone reportedly being able to tell you what your future is."
Marks is charged in Oklahoma County District Court with obtaining money under false pretenses and fortune telling for a fee.
Oklahoma City police Master Sgt. Gary Knight said the crime of fortune telling is an "exceedingly rare thing."
Oklahoma County First Assistant District Attorney Scott Rowland said illegal fortune telling is simply "not prioritized over more serious crimes but still is illegal." Rowland said police likely won't investigate unless there is a complaint. At least one other person has been prosecuted in Oklahoma County since 1992, records show.
Oklahoma law makes it a misdemeanor to either pretend or profess to tell fortunes for a charge or to receive any gift or donation. Marks could be sentenced to up to six months in jail and fined up to $500 if convicted of the misdemeanor.
Marks could be sentenced to up to two years in prison and fined if convicted of obtaining money by false pretenses, a felony.
“It's a selective prosecution because Sonia obviously had some past out of state. And I think she's clearly targeted because I've never seen them do this to anyone else,” Adams said.
In 1994, Marks left Ohio after being charged with theft offenses, records show. She was accused of conning about a dozen fortune telling clients out of as much as a million dollars, according to news accounts.
In late 2014, Marks was arrested in Oklahoma City and extradited to Ohio. She pleaded guilty in February 2015 in Ohio to six counts of theft, records show. Oklahoma City police reported she was ordered to pay $187,000 in restitution.
Marks then moved back to Oklahoma City, where she is serving her probation. But during a visit from a probation officer last July, a fortune telling business was discovered in her home's converted garage, police reported. Marks claimed the business was her mother's, according to police.
In August, an undercover police officer went to the business and paid $60 for a palm and tarot card reading, police reported in a court affidavit. Marks told the officer she would have twins, according to the affidavit. The entire reading lasted about six minutes, police reported.
A couple of days later, an undercover detective paid $80 for a "tarot and full psychic" reading, police reported. Marks told the detective she would meet "the right man" in October. After the reading, Marks told the detective "she would not be happy until she had her aura cleansed," for $125 more, according to the affidavit.
After paying, the detective told Marks a fictional story about meeting a man, police reported. Marks said, "He is the one," and offered to confirm the man was the detective's soul mate for an additional $80, police reported.
Marks was arrested Aug. 26 and is free on bond, jail officials said.
A large wooden sign with the words "Psychic Palm & Card Reader" was still standing in her front yard last week. "Sorry, We're Closed" signs were taped on the doors. Neon signs, including a large crystal ball, in the windows were not lit.
Operating without trouble
Other local psychics have operated for years without trouble.
Stephen Dillard-Carroll, an Oklahoma City psychic and owner of The Traveling Tarot, said he's been in business about nine years. He said he does card readings part time in the evenings and on weekends.
“There's a reason why this particular law is not really enforced," he said. "By and large the psychic business is a reputable business. … There's really no need to prosecute people who are handling their business above board.”
He said he charges a flat fee of $50 for an hourlong session and $25 for any overtime. He said it is unethical to up-sell clients and tell them he can fix bad fortunes for more money.
"It is absolutely unethical and you are taking people for a ride,” he said.
Another psychic, Lina Marks, started doing psychic readings in Oklahoma City 35 years ago and has never got in trouble with the law, her daughter said. Lina Marks hasn't operated "OKC Psychic Reader" for about seven years, though, due to health issues.
The daughter, Pauline Urich, described her mother as an "adviser" who dealt mostly with interpreting dreams and helping people speak with the dead. She said her mother wouldn't charge but took $5 or $10 donations.
"A lot of people like it for fun and entertainment," Urich said.