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.