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Court
Questions surround inmate released from jail

A man who authorities said is a longtime con artist who repeatedly created fake identities was released from the Douglas County Jail recently without having to pay anything, even though he was facing six charges related to an alleged fraud scheme and his bail was set at $300,000.

Tyrone Curtis Powell was arrested Feb. 26 and charged with five felonies, including aggravated theft, identity theft and perjury, in connection with the purported theft of 30 acres in Elkton from a woman named Janet Grosz. He had been held in the Douglas County Jail since his arrest. On March 26, a misdemeanor charge of initiating a false report was added.

On March 31, Powell was released from jail after signing a one-page conditional release agreement in which he agreed to “seek immediate medical treatment.” Under the agreement, Powell, 40, also agreed to appear in court when directed. The amount of money Powell needed to post before being released was zero, according to the agreement. It also states that if Powell doesn’t show up for scheduled court appearances, he faces a $300,000 fine.

Grosz said Powell — who stands 6-feet-5-inches tall and weighs 300 pounds, according to his jail intake record — has been faking various illnesses, including terminal cancer, for years to take advantage of people. That’s what likely happened with his release, she said.

“He just makes up stories. He said he was dying, and decided not to eat,” Grosz, 66, said. “Somebody dropped the ball in the sheriff’s department. How did he get out without paying any bail?”

Grosz also said she is disappointed by how she has been kept in the dark on Powell’s case. In court documents, Deputy District Attorney Ian Ross agreed to notify Grosz of all “critical stages” of the case, including Powell’s release from custody.

Grosz said nothing close to that has occurred.

“I told the district attorney to notify me as soon as he’s out, and they said they would, but nobody did,” Grosz said. “Nobody tells me nothing around here. I don’t know what’s going on. It seems like they don’t care about the victim.”

Grosz said she got word that Powell had been released from a friend in Elkton, who Powell had asked for a ride to his home in Cottage Grove. The friend declined and called Grosz with the news.

Ross said he cannot comment because it is an open case.

The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, which operates the jail, also declined to comment.

Powell’s court-appointed attorney, Jessica Sacharow, did not return two phone calls seeking comment.

Powell is scheduled to appear in court on Friday for a hearing to determine whether he is competent to stand trial. Grosz said she fears he has left the area and will not show up for that hearing.

“I think he just bailed town,” she said. “He stays one step ahead of the police.”

TRAIL OF FRAUD

Grosz said when she met Powell in 2019, he went by the name John Paul Hope. He told her about his plans to create a place where disabled veterans could live in dignity. Grosz, a widowed, retired nurse, agreed to give him 3 acres of her 55-acre ranch in Elkton for his plan to build housing for those veterans.

The problem, according to authorities, is that nothing Hope said was truthful. His real name is Tyrone Curtis Powell, the veterans housing project he proposed was a sham and instead of using 3 acres of Grosz’s ranch he forged documents and took possession of 30 acres, those authorities said.

Authorities also said Powell has been swindling individuals and corporations for years, often through phony nonprofit organizations he claimed to run. He operated at least a half-dozen fraudulent nonprofit organizations under such names as “The Missing Piece Foundation,” “True Story World,” and “Love,” authorities said. Those fake nonprofits accepted donations from individuals and corporations, but Powell either kept, discarded or sold them, police said.

In October, Grosz filed a civil complaint in Douglas County Circuit Court against Powell and his latest nonprofit, Impossible Roads Foundation, to get her land back. The complaint seeks $700,000, plus attorney’s fees and costs, from Powell and the foundation. The $700,000 represents the value of the property, the value of the use of the property, lost personal property and the personal injury Grosz suffered by being the victim of fraud and financial abuse of an elderly person, the complaint said.

Powell, through his attorney, denied the allegations contained in the complaint. That civil case is still winding its way through the courts. A trial is scheduled for August.

The criminal investigation into Powell dates back to December when he called authorities after Grosz had changed the lock on his door. Authorities said when they began digging they found a trail of fraud dating back more than a decade and spanning several states, all linked to Powell.

Investigators found that Powell, who claimed he was born in the U.S. Virgin Islands and left on the doorstep of a church there, actually grew up in California, attended Yale University and lived mostly in Arizona.

While in Arizona, Powell ran into trouble with the law. In 2009, Powell was arrested for altering a VIN on a vehicle in which he had obtained a loan, then reported stolen and removed the VIN and license plate. Powell was also taken to court for defaulting on loans.

Powell is believed to have spent some time in Alaska before landing in Bellingham, Washington. Once there he assumed the name John Paul Hope — a combination of the name of the former pope and a local program called Hope House — and with that alias got a Washington identification card and a Social Security number.

While in Bellingham, authorities said Powell started the Impossible Roads Foundation. While touting the organization, which Powell claimed built tiny homes for disabled veterans, he collected large donations from companies like Home Depot, Matson and others, authorities said.

Matson, which makes shipping containers, said it donated at least 20 to Powell in the belief he would convert them into housing for disabled veterans. Instead he sold the containers, valued at about $1,000 each, authorities said.

Powell did keep one of the shipping containers and convert it into a tiny home — for himself, court records show.


Education
Lauren Sandfort named Future First Citizen by Roseburg High School Foundation

Lauren Sandfort was named Future First Citizen at the Roseburg High School Foundation Scholarship Night on Tuesday.

Lauren was selected from a group of five finalists. She will receive $10,000 toward tuition.

“It feels like a dream come true,” Lauren said. “I feel so honored to be chosen as the 2021 Future First Citizen. I’d love to thank the donors and the foundation for this amazing opportunity.”

The other four finalists — Camille Dela Cruz, Stephanie Way, Jane Harvey and Rachel Bober — will each receive a $4,000 scholarship.

Before the winner was announced, a video was shown of an interview with each of the finalists where they talk about their achievements, educational and career goals.

“I’ve wanted to be a Future First Citizen from the time I was in middle school,” Lauren said in the video. “I had my babysitter, Erin Lee, win and it inspired me to be a Future First Citizen.”

Lauren will be attending Southern Utah University, where she will join the golf team. She aspires to be a dermatologist.

As a two-sport athlete in golf and tennis, she talked about her organizational and communication skills. She estimated that she missed 23 afternoon and 13 morning classes, while maintaining a 4.0 grade point average.

“I had a spreadsheet that I gave to both of my coaches of what days I’d be at practices, and if there were conflicting events which event I would go to,” Lauren said. “I learned those skills early on and I had to be proactive and be organized in order for that to work out. I’m excited that we’re going to have a season this year. It’s going to look a little different than my freshman and sophomore year, but hopefully we’ll still get a state (championship competition). I’m just trying to stay as optimistic as possible.”

The scholarship night event was held for a limited crowd at the Rose Theater and live streamed on Facebook for the community.

On Monday, the Roseburg High School Foundation announced the winners of 12 scholarships totaling more than $10,000. The winners were brought on stage during Tuesday’s event.

The scholarships range in size from $500 to $1,500. In most cases the funds for the scholarships come from people who have supported the foundation with the exception of the following three scholarships:

Maryn Wicks received the $1,000 RHS Foundation Scholarship Committee Merit Scholarship, which was new this year. The scholarship is funded by members of the scholarship committee. Wicks has a 3.84 GPA, participates in sports, extra curricular activities, has worked full-time at Pete’s Drive-In for a year and has been working eight hours a month in child care for the past seven years. She plans to attend Utah Valley University or Umpqua Community College.

The Beal Family Scholarship, in the amount of $1,500, is a scholarship support through a donation by Bob Beal. Camille Dela Cruz was the recipient of the scholarship this year.

Miriam Childers received the $1,200 Class of 1965 Scholarship, which was started by the class of 1965 and now hosted and managed by the RHS Foundation.


News
Despite abundant snowpacks, Umpqua River basin remains in a moderate drought

After four consecutive months of abundant rainfall, an abnormally dry March still has Douglas County and the Umpqua River Basin at a moderate drought status.

The National Weather Service in Medford reported just 1.65 inches of rain at the Roseburg Regional Airport monitoring station for the month of March. That was 1.2 inches below the five-year average for March (2.85 inches) and 1.85 inches below the historical March average (3.5 inches).

That minimal rainfall total comes after the area received nearly 18 inches of rain from November through February. It was the third year in a row that Douglas County saw 2 or fewer inches of rain during the month of March.

Medford NWS metorologist Chad Keene said that while more precipitation is anticipated during April and May, “I wouldn’t hang my hat on it.”

“It’s disappointing,” Keene said of the dry conditions over the past month. “The Umpqua Basin is in a moderate drought right now, and it’s OK as it currently stands. That said, we really don’t have any significant precipitation in the forecast for the next week or two.”

The entire West Coast is currently harboring a high pressure system which is preventing any significant precipitation from developing offshore. Throughout most of March, any systems that were carrying notable rain and snowfall have shifted further north into the upper Willamette Valley and into Washington, Keene said.

While the central Pacific Ocean is still presenting a La Nina weather system, the amount of moisture normally associated with such a system has been sporadic at lower elevations in southern Oregon and northern California.

“This La Nina didn’t translate into what we’d expect for most of the United States,” Keene said. “We’re kind of at that cutoff area (in Oregon) where unfortunately we didn’t get what we wanted.”

Despite the lack of rainfall in the Umpqua Basin, snowpacks in the western Cascade Mountains in Douglas County remain abundant.

As of Tuesday morning, the base snow depth on Mount Bailey, near Diamond Lake, was at 91 inches, while Diamond Lake Resort had a 28-inch base. Those two locations are responsible for the majority of snowmelt for the lower Umpqua Basin.

Keene said snowpack in the Umpqua and Rogue river basins were at roughly 84% of normal.

“At the higher elevations, we’re either at or above normal snow depths, but the middle elevations are well below,” Keene said.

Keene is hopeful that things will pick up over April and May to get more water into the ground before things quickly begin to dry up in June. While Douglas County saw barely an inch of rain in April last year, nearly 5 inches fell in the area in April 2019. May saw a little more than 3 inches of rainfall.

“I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we can still get something significant before June, July, August,” Keene said. “Boy, it would be nice to have a wet April.”


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