Psychic gets 8 years for con of timber heir
PORTLAND — A psychic who used an elaborate con to steal $15 million from the heir to an Oregon timber fortune was sentenced Thursday to more than eight years in federal prison.
As part of the fraud, Rachel Lee got her daughter, Porsha Lee, to pretend to be a British woman named Mary Marks. Only 17 at the time, Porsha Lee donned a blond wig, wore heavy makeup and faked a British accent. Lee and her daughter later duped Ralph Raines Jr. into believing he and Marks were married and had a son named Giorgio Armani.
Acting as Raines' wife, the daughter negotiated the sale of properties totaling millions of dollars, with the money going into bank accounts controlled by Rachel Lee.
"The major damage to the victim in this case is 10 years of believing that he had a support network," Assistant U.S. Attorney Donna Maddux said. "'Ten years of believing he had a friend; more than five years of believing that he had a wife and he had a child. All of which was an absolute fabrication."
Raines, 67, has a keen interest in the paranormal. He met Rachel Lee in 2004 at her psychic shop in Bend, Oregon.
Rachel Lee and Raines stayed in touch after the meeting, with Raines divulging personal information about his life, including that he lived and worked at a sprawling tree farm developed by his father west of Portland.
The two became friends and Raines started giving Lee money, and also bought her a $915,000 home in Portland's West Hills.
The scheme deepened after Ralph Raines Sr. suffered a stroke in 2006, leaving the son with two issues he was ill-equipped to handle: operating the financial end of the tree farm and providing care for a man in declining health.
Rachel Lee falsely told Raines Jr. that she was a widow who had cared for her dying husband. That qualification led Raines to hire her at $9,000 a month to care for his father.
"I said I'd like to pay the going rate, but I don't know what it is," Raines said.
Rachel Lee quickly gained control of the family's financial and business affairs, and started siphoning money.
In 2007, Porsha Lee, in the character of Mary Marks, had a "chance" encounter with Raines at the Portland airport. She intrigued Raines with her psychic-like ability and presented herself as a traveling bookkeeper — the perfect person to help with the tree farm business.
The Lees later fooled Raines into thinking he had married Mary Marks and had a child with her.
Federal prosecutors said the women concocted the pregnancy angle because Porsha Lee was really pregnant at the time. When the real father took the baby away, another daughter of Rachel Lee allowed her son to play the role of Giorgio.
Porsha Lee, who is awaiting sentencing, maintained the character for seven years before the scheme collapsed last year. Raines continues to wear the ring from the sham marriage and doesn't realize that Mary Marks was a character played by Lee's daughter. He said Marks returned to England last year and he hasn't heard from her since.
"Who are you married to?" U.S. District Court Judge Robert E. Jones asked Raines.
"Well, I thought I was married to a person named Mary Marks," Raines said. "I don't know where she's at."
Though the Mary Marks persona was a fake, it's the name of Rachel Lee's mother. By using a real person's name, the Lees were able to open bank accounts in the joint name of Mary Marks and Porsha Lee. The real Mary Marks told investigators she opened the accounts at the request of her granddaughter.
Rachel Lee and others connected to the con used the ill-gotten gains to splurge on travel, jewelry, real estate, designer clothes and luxury cars.
According to the sentencing memo, by the time of the arrests, little remained of the once vast Raines estate. Rachel Lee left Raines with about $205,000 in bank accounts. No money remained in his investment accounts.
Rachel Lee, 44, tearfully apologized for taking advantage Raines and involving her children.
The judge gave Rachel Lee credit for sparing Raines from a trial, but sided more closely with the prosecution's request for a nine-year sentence.
"This is a tragic, tragic case brought about by evil, evil-doing," Jones said. "This was a massive fraud — a mean, personal fraud that lasted for a decade."