Ocean Park, Washington Woman Sentenced for Wire Fraud
PORTLAND, Ore. – Lisa Mottaghi, 46, of Ocean Park, Washington, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Ancer L. Haggerty to 33 months in prison for the crime of wire fraud involving a “sweetheart swindle” of a retired widower from St. Helens, Oregon. In addition to her sentence, the Court ordered Mottaghi to serve three years of supervised release following her release from prison and to repay $649,536 in restitution.
“Schemes like this devastate innocent victims and their families. It is especially cruel when fraudsters target senior citizens,” said U.S. Attorney Amanda Marshall. “This conviction demonstrates what happens to those who abuse vulnerable citizens in our community.”
At the sentencing hearing, the government laid out for the Court Mottaghi’s scheme to defraud. In June of 2005, Lisa Mottaghi began borrowing significant sums of money from Gerald Voorhees, a 74-year old widowed retiree from Saint Helens, after developing a relationship of trust with him. By 2009, Voorhees told Mottaghi that he would not loan her any more money.
Shortly thereafter, Voorhees was contacted by email by Tonia Jorgenson, a woman identifying herself as the sister of Mottaghi. Jorgensen told Voorhees about her stable life (albeit with a sick husband) and promised to repay the debts of her sister. However, not long after the first email, Jorgenson wrote Voorhees again with the terrible news of her husband’s death and the fact that her ability to repay the debts of her sister would be delayed due to family interference in the settling of the estate. To make matters worse, she soon claimed her own finances were compromised as a result of her husband’s death and she too needed the financial help of Voorhees. The truth, in fact, was that Jorgenson did not exist. She was the fraudulent creation of Mottaghi.
Writing as her sister, Mottaghi began a two-year scheme to defraud Voorhees. With a tale of loss and vulnerability, Mottaghi created a character designed to elicit compassion and sympathy from him. Over a short period of time, Mottaghi manufactured, in the name of Jorgenson, a fraudulent romance complicated by health concerns and legally-created delays in her access to great wealth, all non-existent or false in every regard.
Voorhees paid the defendant, acting as Jorgenson, nearly $650,000. So strongly did Voorhees believe the lies that Mottaghi told him as Jorgenson, that even after his own family intervened in 2011 to restrict his ability to get access to his own money (information he shared with the defendant), he continued to find ways to give her money. Even knowing that Voorhees no longer had the ability to control his own finances, Mottaghi solicited $2,500 with the lie that if she didn’t get the money, she would lose future contact with her grandson; a grandson that, of course, she didn’t have. Voorhees took out a loan on his car and gave her the $2,500. None of the nearly $650,000 has been recovered.
The investigation of this case was conducted by the Portland office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott Erik Asphaug.