Prominent volunteer offers pleas in thefts from elderly

By Patrick Cliff / The Bulletin
Published: March 29, 2008

A La Pine man once so renowned for his volunteer work that he was named Central Oregon Volunteer of the Year pleaded to 32 counts of theft on Friday. Oliver Lee Trussell volunteered for decades across a range of services, including helping victims of crime understand the justice system.

But the charges against Trussell, 59, stem from his work as a court-appointed conservator helping elderly and handicapped people with their finances. He was accused of stealing more than $100,000 from 32 people.

Trussell entered 32 Alford pleas, meaning he agreed that the state could prove the charges against him, but he did not admit guilt. Under Oregon law, an Alford plea is considered the same as a guilty plea.

“We wanted one count for each victim,” said Deschutes County Deputy District Attorney Darryl Nakahira. “We wanted respect for every victim.”

Trussell, arrested in July, was originally charged with 65 counts of theft. During Friday’s hearing, Deschutes County Circuit Court Judge Michael Sullivan told Trussell that under the original charges, he could have been sentenced to a maximum of about 108 years in prison and fined $4 million. The remaining charges will be dismissed at the sentencing.

His arrest was the culmination of a three-month investigation led by Sgt. Scott Beard of the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office. The state Department of Justice and the Social Security Administration also helped in the investigation.

“This is a very important case about someone entrusted with the lives of the elderly and disabled,” said Beard after the hearing.

Under the plea deal, Trussell will be sentenced to 72 months in jail, said Sullivan during the hearing.

“When everything is said and done, you will get 72 months, no ands, ifs or buts,” said Sullivan.

Trussell said he under- stood.

The prosecution will also ask for more than $100,000 in restitution.

Trussell’s lawyer admitted that her client made mistakes in how he worked with clients on their finances.

“He was balancing 70 people’s checkbooks,” said Angela Lee, his defense lawyer. “He made some errors, he definitely did.”

After the hearing, Trussell was released, but he is not allowed to leave Oregon. He is also not allowed to have any contact with any of the victims.

Trussell’s sentencing will take place at 4 p.m. on May 19.

Patrick Cliff can be reached at 633-2161 or at

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