Janet Grosz simply wanted to help. So when a man named John Paul Hope told her about his plans to create a place where disabled veterans could live in dignity, she was all in. 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 Curtis Tyrone Powell, the veterans housing project he proposed was a sham and instead of using 3 acres of Grosz’s ranch he forged documents and stole 30 acres, those authorities said.
Powell, 40, of Cottage Grove, was arrested Friday and charged with five felonies connected to his interactions with Grosz, including aggravated theft, identity theft and perjury. He remained in the Douglas County jail Monday with bail set at $300,000, according to his arraignment documents.
“I wish I had never got involved with him, but I guess I had to learn the hard way,” Grosz, 66, said. “I have to learn not to be so trustworthy of people, because there are so many fake people out there.”
Grosz was not alone in getting swindled by Powell, authorities said.
Powell operated at least a half-dozen fraudulent nonprofit organizations under such names as “The Missing Piece Foundation,” “True Story World,” and “Love,” authorities said. These fake nonprofits accepted donations from individuals and corporations, including Home Depot, but Powell either kept, discarded or sold them, authorities said.
Grosz said she met Powell in the summer of 2019 through a mutual acquaintance. He told her he was the founder and head of a Washington nonprofit called Impossible Roads Foundation, whose aim was to help disabled veterans. Powell told Grosz that if she turned over 3 acres of her ranch to the foundation he would use it to build tiny homes for veterans who were hurting.
As part of the agreement, when the housing was completed and Powell passed away or was no longer involved, the property would revert back to Grosz or her trust. Grosz agreed to donate the 3-acre parcel for this specific purpose and Powell asked her to place it in the name of the foundation.
Grosz agreed. “I was just trying my best to help people,” she said.
In January of last year, Powell took Grosz to a title company and asked her to execute the deed for the 3-acre parcel to the foundation for the purposes of constructing the disabled veterans housing. Grosz said she had just returned from a church mission trip to New Zealand and was tired, so she asked Powell if she could have her real estate agent review the deed. But Powell insisted that it had to be done immediately because of the arrangements he had made for the housing, Grosz said.
Grosz executed a deed to the property to the foundation, believing it was for 3 acres.
Powell soon moved onto the property and into Grosz’s garage, and began disposing of her belongings by gift, sale or otherwise, she said. Grosz said that Powell then told her that in fact she had signed a deed conveying 30 acres to the foundation, not the 3 acres Grosz thought she had given. Grosz said Powell told her that he had no intention of building housing for veterans on the property. The Douglas County Planning Department later confirmed that such housing would not be allowed on the property because it’s not zoned for it.
A CIVIL COMPLAINTGrosz said she later learned from Powell and others that Powell never intended to use the property for charitable purposes and instead had begun remodeling her garage as a home for himself. Grosz also learned that while Powell claims to be disabled — at various times he said he suffered from a stroke, was nearly blind and had terminal cancer — he is not.
“He’s been dying for the last eight years,” she said. “He was even scamming the doctors and nurses to write a hospice note so he could get care.”
When Grosz confronted Powell and asked for the deed back, she said he became “belligerent” and falsely sought a restraining order, claiming he feared Grosz would abuse a person with disabilities. Grosz said the false allegations were meant to get her to stop her efforts to remove Powell from her garage and property.
In September, Powell, who stands 6-feet-5 inches tall and weighs 300 pounds, filed for that restraining order against Grosz, claiming she was dangerous and made him fear for his life.
“She is a pathological liar and makes threats. Has fits of rage,” Powell wrote in the request for the restraining order, adding that Grosz owned more than 10 semi-automatic rifles.
The request for the restraining order was initially granted, then dismissed after Grosz contested it. Powell filed for a second restraining order in January, and that too was initially granted and then dismissed.
In October, Grosz filed a civil complaint against Powell — under the alias John Hope —in Douglas County Circuit Court. The complaint seeks $700,000, plus attorney’s fees and costs, from Powell and his Impossible Roads 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.
Grosz also asked that Powell immediately be ordered off the property.
Powell, through his Roseburg attorney Keith Ropp, denied the allegations contained in the complaint. Ropp did not return a phone call and email Monday seeking comment for this story.
Grosz is represented by Dan G. McKinney, an attorney with the Roseburg firm Douglas County Law.
The complaint is working its way through the court system and Grosz is still fighting to get her property back.
“I had to pay $10,000 in attorney’s fees and it’s not over yet,” she said.
TRAIL OF FRAUDIn December, Powell called authorities after Grosz had changed the lock on his door. Grosz said she told a deputy to look into Powell’s ID because it seemed fake. She also told the deputy the website to his Impossible Road Foundation looked suspicious.
Authorities said when they began digging they found a trail of fraud dating back 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, actually grew up in California, attended Yale University and lived mostly in Arizona.
While in Arizona, Powell ran into trouble. 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 told authorities that he was a victim of identity theft resulting in hundreds of thousands of dollars in loss. Around 2010, an obituary for Powell was printed in the local newspaper; two years later he fled Arizona, authorities said.
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 card.
While in Bellingham, authorities said Powell started the Impossible Roads Foundation. While touting the organization, which Powell claimed built tiny homes for disabled veterans, Powell 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.
They also said Powell took advantage of Grosz’s kindness — the same goodwill she displayed as a nurse and a caregiver to her ill husband — and stole her land. Powell was arrested Friday at The Village Green, a Cottage Grove hotel and RV park where he had been staying.
“I hope he asks for forgiveness from God and gives me my property back,” Grosz said. “He also needs to ask for forgiveness from all the other people he’s hurt. He’s lied to other people and he needs to apologize for ripping them off. I feel bad for those people.”