Tyrone Curtis Powell

Curtis Tyrone Powell

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.

Scott Carroll can be reached at scarroll@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4204. Or follow him on Twitter @scottcarroll15.

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(6) comments

mynamehere

A con artist IS a dangerous criminal. You don't think what he does is a violent crime?

mworden

Oh, my goodness. I feel a rant coming on.

I think murder, rape and sodomy, home invasion, car jacking, first degree assault, armed robbery, etc are violent crimes. By definition, a violent crime occurs when a person is physically harmed or threatened with violence. Financial crimes are reprehensible, but they tend to rely on charm and smooth talk rather than violence.

I'm concerned about the difference in the articles about this guy who's accused of conning a woman out of property and the articles about the proposed horse center for Metz Hill.

C.W. Millegan, the advisor and father to the developers for Metz Hill, has been indicted for financial fraud and tax evasion for a much higher amount. The Metz Hill project had two glowing articles. This guy has had two articles that come close to painting him as guilty as charged. I don't blame his alleged victim for being disgusted and angry, but I'm sure the alleged victims who lost over $4 million due to Millegan's alleged shenanigans feel pretty disgusted, too. I'd like to hear from them before Douglas County approves anything.

I don't know anything at all about this case except what I've read in the N-R. It painted him as a long-time con artist, an illness faker, and certainly guilty. It relied heavily on the alleged victim's ire. It makes it sound unusual for people to be released without paying cash bail. It is not.

I hope the defense attorney and D.A. will exclude anyone from the jury for this guy who subscribes or reads either the print News-Review or the on-line version. Otherwise, he will not get a fair trial here. One of America's greatest attributes is the idea that people are innocent until proven guilty by evidence beyond a reasonable doubt. An alleged victim's wrath is not evidence. Personally, if I were the defense attorney I'd be asking for a change of venue after these two articles.

According to the Innocence Project, "Eighteen people have been proven innocent and exonerated by DNA testing in the United States after serving time on death row. They were convicted in 11 states and served a combined 229 years in prison – including 202 years on death row – for crimes they didn’t commit."

This particular case involves an alleged financial crime, not a death row crime. But innocent people on death row means that real murderers were allowed to keep walking the streets. The urge to punish is often so strong that our justice system and the community lose sight of what justice really means. These articles raised the ire of many people. How dare he be released? What's up at the jail? How could this be? He looks guilty as heck. And he's a BIG scary black guy, too.

Compare that with the nice articles about the Metz Hill horse project. World class, 500 jobs, tourist dollars, hotels, restaurants. I hope there will be a front page article about the indictments, lawsuits, bankruptcies and forced business closure of C.W Millegan to forewarn any local people who might consider investing money in the Metz Hill project. He's walking free and nobody seems to object. There's no news reports on his height and weight, unlike in the above story -- 6"5', 300 lbs. Scary!

Everybody, please check your biases and prejudices and fears of 6 foot 5 inch, three hundred pound black men vs. millionaire white men who have been indicted for worse financial crimes. This kind of conversation is important.

/End of Rant.

mworden

I don't know the inmate or the victim in this story. However, I do know that in 2019, Douglas County settled a lawsuit on jail mistreatment brought by a former inmate. As part of the settlement, the jail agreed not to discontinue or withhold medical treatment without proper review and authorization of a physician.

In the photo accompanying this article, the inmate is wearing an oxygen cannula laced around his ear and dangling around his neck. The victim says the inmate's illness is invented. Whether it is real or bogus is not for her to decide. The jail is prohibited by the court from withholding or discontinuing treatment without proper medical review, which can cost thousands of dollars. The bill is footed by us -- the taxpayers.

There is a nationwide movement to reform the cash-bail system to allow those accused of non-violent crimes to be released pending trial with no bail. The current system allows affluent people, usually white, out of jail while keeping poor and non-white people in jail for months and in some cases years without them being convicted of a crime. The California Supreme Court has ruled the cash-bail system unconstitutional.

In my opinion, it would have been prudent to put an ankle monitor on this guy. But other than that, there's nothing remarkable about him being released without posting bail. It happens all the time, with or without medical issues.

Mike

If the cash-bail system is unconstitutional, why jail anyone who has merely been arrested?

mworden

Yes, indeed, Mike, that is the question. I'm personally in favor of jailing people accused of serious violent crimes pending trial. I'm against holding people accused of minor and non-violent crimes indefinitely based on their ability to pay bail. It's a wealth-based system and to me that's wrong. Naturally, not everyone agrees. Here's an article on cash-bail reform you might find interesting. It's a radio interview, followed by a transcript.

https://www.npr.org/2021/03/29/982417595/california-does-away-with-cash-bail-for-those-who-cant-afford-it

Here's another article:

https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/2020/02/9457478/tommy-young-tennessee-inmate-dead-cash-bail-reform

Mike

Do I understand this correctly? Deputy District Attorney Ian Ross agreed to notify victim Janet Grosz if alleged criminal Tyrone Powell was to be released from jail. Yet, Sheriff Hanlin released Powell from jail without notifying anyone and he refuses to comment why Ms. Grosz wasn't notified. District Attorney Ross refuses to answer why Grosz was not notified, claiming an open case prevents him from commenting.

What a fine bunch of law enforcement people we have. I can only conclude Powell must have been friends with Beau Hanlin who advised him how to commit crimes and stay out of jail.

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