Circling the Drain

*** Read the latest on the criminal case against Lori Deveny, click here.

In addition to being a serial fraudster, now-disgraced Portland attorney Lori Deveny was many other things: big game hunter, poker player, cigar aficionado, and… city sewage pump clogger? Hear me out, because the receipts are pretty compelling.

A year ago, while researching Lori and her husband, Robert Deveny, I stumbled across an article about a “phantom flusher” in Wood Village who was repeatedly damaging a city pump by flushing paper towels and other matter. City officials had painstakingly traced the material to one of the 27 tenants in the three buildings at “Wood Villa,” a local business park. Despite intensive door-to-door efforts to identify and stop the flusher, the behavior continued, necessitating frequent and costly repairs, averaging $900 every ten days.

How the heck did this bizarre story come up in my google search, you ask?

Robert’s photography business, Vlakvark Media, was one of Woodvilla’s tenants.

It’s the same “photography business” that the US Attorney claims Lori funded through forgery and theft. It was mentioned in their press release issued last month, after she finally pleaded guilty to numerous felonies including identity theft. It was even referenced in her plea agreement.

Which is to say that Robert’s photography business is significant, and the toilet-clogging may be, as well.

Robert and Lori Deveny’s “photography business” (left)

Vlakvark doesn’t look like any photo studio or business that I’ve ever seen, sporting obscured windows, a loading bay tall enough for a semi, and a dismal industrial location. Not only is it in a desolate area that no typical person would go to for their photography needs, it is also far away from the Deveny’s home near the Willamette National Cemetery, approximately a half-hour drive, even without traffic.

Perhaps the most obvious red flag concerning Vlakvark is the complete lack of any customer reviews, social media, or even photos on the internet. The one thing that is universally true about all actual photographers is that they know how to use the internet for their business — they are not shy about sharing their work.

Yet even the Wayback Machine is stumped by Vlakvark — which means warthog in Afrikaans, and which should not be confused with the South African company of the same name.

While there are many photos online of Robert and Lori during their frequent safaris, especially on Facebook, there is no evidence that Robert took any of them.

So what, exactly, was Robert — or more likely Lori — even doing at the photography studio?

The toilet clogging began in 2014 or 2015, and by 2017, the City Council had rewritten the ordinances such that the owner of Woodvilla would be charged for the costly repairs. By early 2018, those bills came to about $15,000.

More importantly, the City Council had had just about enough of the problem, and included it as a topic during their February 13, 2018 meeting:

The Wood Village City Council meeting of February 13, 2018

Councilmembers, a public works employee, Woodvilla’s owner, and at least one tenant talked about the problem for a little over an hour, recounting every effort that had been made over the years: At first, tenants were simply reminded what could be flushed; then came the signs hung over all toilets; and finally, the owner went around trying to find which of the tenants had the kind of shop towels that were being flushed. Everyone swore up and down that they were not the scofflaw.

Yet the damage continued.

It is unknown if Robert or Lori attended that meeting, but they would have heard about the situation, repeatedly, from the aggravated property owner.

It was at that same time, in early 2018, that Lori’s carefully constructed world of identity theft and fraud really began to collapse. She had received her very first ever bar complaint in November 2017, which credibly alleged forgery and theft, and after that, things happened quickly. She simply could not keep up with her lies, and was likely running out of new clients to rob to pay off the others who had grown impatient with her excuses.

It is unknown if Robert knew about the serious trouble that Lori was in, or if he was kept in the dark in the same way her vulnerable clients were.

What we do know is that on March 12, 2018, the day he was going to give one of his daughters (from a previous marriage) $75,000 for a house, Robert allegedly committed suicide, in bed next to Lori, right after they had sex — his death was suspicious, to say the least, and it is certain that she used his life insurance money to pay off some of her victims.

The article about the toilet stuffer and City Council meeting came out on March 20, and coincidentally, the Bar filed documents to suspend Lori’s bar license the very next day.

Even though pressure was mounting, Lori was spotted on April 6 at a hunting expo in Minnesota, her arm around Jacques Senekal, owner of African Maximum Safaris, who was named in her federal indictment. Days later, she begged the Bar for more time to respond to the suspension.

Lori finally resigned in May 2018, and then spent the next year aggressively secreting and sanitizing her legal files — even after she promised to release them to her friend and fellow attorney Jodie Philips Polich in May 2018, and even after the court ordered her to release them to the Bar in October 2018.

An unknown number of files are still missing. Was Robert’s studio one of the quiet places that Lori stashed her files and destroyed evidence? If so, what kind of evidence needed to be destroyed?

And was there anything in the studio that needed to be literally sanitized, as in Clorox and paper towels?

It is a disturbing combination to have a clever and apparently charming lawyer who built a positive reputation through charity and service, but who is secretly a forger, fraudster, and thief; who frequently travels internationally; and… who bankrolls a very sketchy photography business, smack in the middle of nowhere, just three turns off Interstate 84, that one can back a cargo truck up to the loading bay, or even park inside.

Again, one has to wonder: What was really going on in there?

Since Robert is deceased, all we have to work with is Lori’s side of the story — and she is a chronic liar.

But we do have one final receipt, and it’s hard to ignore: In August 2021, City officials told me that the sewer-clogging had stopped in mid-2019, exactly when Lori was arrested and charged in both federal and state criminal court.

Which is to say, yes, it is highly likely that serial fraudster and scofflaw Lori Deveny was the toilet stuffer; and that she was apparently very busy cleaning up after at least one of her crimes.

Email from Wood Village official regarding the toilet stuffing incidents

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