COTTAGE GROVE, Ore. — Investigators say that a man arrested in Douglas County on Friday was responsible for a string of fraud cases that stretched from Arizona, to Washington state, and ended in Oregon.
40-year-old Tyrone Curtis Powell allegedly used the alias "John P. Hope" as he established multiple fake non-profit organizations to bilk victims out of money and property.
According to the Douglas County Sheriff's Office, deputies began investigating Powell in the later months of 2020 in connection with an organization called the "Impossible Roads Foundation." An elderly victim originally planned to donate three acres of land to the foundation, thinking that it was a legimitate non-profit dedicated to building tiny homes for disabled veterans.
Powell leveraged the donation to get almost 31 acres and a shop, then began using them as his own property, the Sheriff's Office said.
"After the transaction for the property, Powell obtained Restraining Orders against the victim and filed criminal reports accusing the victim of other crimes, such as burglary and theft," the agency said. "Powell filed these reports and court documents using the alias of 'John Hope.'"
Deputies later learned about Powell's true identity. The investigation found that Powell was raised in California before attending Yale Unversity and moving to Arizona, where he "became involved in fraudulent activity." During his time in Arizona, the Sheriff's Office said, Powell operated a number of fake non-profits — including “The Missing Piece Foundation,” “True Story World,” “The Missing Piece Foundation Endowment,” “Machine Seven Super Car Tour,” and “Love.”
In 2009, Powell was arrested in Arizona for buying a vehicle with a loan and removing the VIN and license plate, then reporting the vehicle stolen. He was also in civil court for defaulting on loan payments.
"Powell made claims to law enforcement that he was a victim of identity theft resulting in hundreds of thousand dollars in loss," the Sheriff's Office said.
An obituary for Powell was printed in the local newspaper in 2010. He fled the state a few years later, the Sheriff's Office said.
After a brief stop in Alaska, Powell ended up in Bellingham, Washington. It was there, the Sheriff's Office said, that Powell began using the name John Hope. Powell managed to get a Washington ID and Social Security card under the new alias.
Douglas County deputies visited Bellingham in January of 2021, interviewing multiple people who knew Powell as John Hope. The investigation found that the Impossible Roads Foundation had its roots in Bellingham, but most of the items donated to Powell through the fake non-profit were either abandoned or sold off, including shipping containers that had been donated with the understanding that they would be turned into tiny homes.
"Deputies also investigated some of Powell’s history in Arizona and were able to contact an individual who was able to provide detailed history on Powell’s behavior and sudden disappearance from Arizona," the Sheriff's Office said.
After a five-month investigation, deputies arrested Powell on Friday while executing search warrants at properties in Elkton and Cottage Grove. Powell was arrested and taken to the Douglas County Jail on a long list of charges, including Aggravated Theft. Additional charges may be added, the Sheriff's Office said.
The Sheriff’s Office is asking anyone with information in regards to this investigation or Powell to please contact the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office at firstname.lastname@example.org or through the tip line at 541-957-2099.