Couple plead guilty in donation scheme

A Medford couple pleaded guilty Wednesday morning to crimes related to a fraudulent scheme in which they sent their children door-knocking for money.

Prosecutors subpoenaed 166 witnesses in their case against Carly and Laramie Torres, whose trial began Tuesday in Jackson County Circuit Court.

The parents and their children canvassed neighborhoods in Medford, Ashland and Eagle Point from late 2006 through 2007. The family requested donations to help fund Carly Torres' oldest daughter's trip to a volleyball camp in trade for bogus car-wash tickets. But instead of sending the girl to camp, the couple spent the money on weekend trips to the movies, monster truck rallies and other things, said Jackson County Deputy District Attorney Karen Loomis.

"And nobody ever got their car washed," Loomis said.

Carly Torres, 35, pleaded guilty before Judge Ray White to unlawful use of a computer and to four counts of second-degree theft. Her husband, Laramie, 33, pleaded guilty to one count each of second- and third-degree theft, Loomis said.

Sheriff's deputies had to spend a lot of time issuing the subpoenas and the prosecutors' staff members put in a lot of hours on this case, she said.

Loomis said the Torreses kept binders full of names of victims who gave amounts ranging from pocket change to $40 checks. The total haul did not appear to be more than a few thousand dollars. But the damage done to legitimate organizations who need donations may be far-reaching, she said.

"This case was not so much about the money as it was about the loss of trust these victims feel. The Torreses have hurt all those other kids out there who need to raise money," Loomis said.

Carly Torres altered the fliers handed out to the victims, changing the dates of the camp and the amount of money needed to attend, Loomis said. The mother pleaded guilty to the felony computer crime in exchange for having multiple other counts of theft dropped as part of the plea agreement, Loomis said.

Loomis said Laramie Torres' defense attorney argued in opening statements that while his client had supported the activity, he had never personally asked for money. And, although the family had spent some of the money on other things, they intended to pay it back. Their intent always was to send the girl to the volleyball camp, the defense argued.

The scam had been going on for months before a suspicious female victim phoned Medford police, Loomis said. The woman also called the Torreses and went to their home to confront them when she realized she'd been hoodwinked, said Loomis.

"She was pretty upset about it. She said it was the principle of the thing," Loomis said.

Loomis will submit each victim's statement to the court prior to sentencing, which is expected to be the first week of November.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 776-4497 or e-mail

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