Red Collar Criminal

Did Oregon attorney Lori Deveny kill her husband?

Former personal injury attorney Lori Deveny is scheduled to plead guilty this week, in the state’s criminal case against her, to 92 charges of identity theft, forgery, theft, and criminal mistreatment against 37 separate victims. Her federal criminal trial, on 24 similar counts including tax evasion, is still scheduled for mid-August.

Deveny is a serial insurance fraudster whose crimes remained undetected for decades, not only because she chose her victims carefully — many had cognitive difficulties from their injuries — but also because she carefully fabricated a respectable reputation in Portland’s legal community.

However, it was all a rickety façade built upon her victims’ naïvety about insurance settlements, and upon her own talent of fast-talking her way out of suspicion. That façade started to crumble in late 2017.

Many are now questioning whether her husband Robert Deveny was also one of her victims — in a different type of crime, ‘fraud detection homicide,’ a category of murder not widely understood by the public, but very familiar to forensic investigators and other experts. It is a kind of murder committed by white collar criminals when there’s a threat that someone will discover and expose their fraud.

These murderers are termed ‘red-collar criminals.’ And according to leading experts, nobody is or should be considered above suspicion, including women.

“There’s blood on me…”

Robert Deveny, November 2017

Robert, himself a retired attorney, had just taken a solo trip to South Africa in November 2017, apparently unaware of the complaints against Lori that had begun to stream into the state bar. Her entire house of cards was collapsing, and Robert, by all evidence, had no idea.

On the morning of March 12, 2018, Lori called 911 tearfully reporting that Robert had committed suicide with one of their many guns, a Taurus .38 revolver.

In the 911 call, and in the report of the Portland Police officers who soon arrived at the scene, Lori repeatedly asserted that Robert had been struggling with “severe” or “significant” depression, was on medication for it, and that suicide had “been a topic of discussion on and off for years.”

She also claimed that Robert, who at age 68 was sixteen years older than Lori, was upset about aging and his mobility — he had recently had knee replacement surgery that, as Lori told the police, had possibly become infected. She stated that Robert had a doctor’s appointment scheduled for later that day to check on that possibility.

The police report detailed Lori’s account of the moments leading up to Robert’s death:

Lori told me that she and Robert have separate bedrooms due to his CPAP machine, but share the adjoining bathroom. Lori told me that around 0630 this morning, Robert came into her room and asked her to come to his room. Lori told me that Robert was very sweet and gentle with her, and that they ended up making love, though Lori told me it is complicated due to his [erectile disfunction]. Lori told me that after making love, Robert was lying on his back and she was lying next to him on her right side with her head on his left shoulder and her hand on his chest. Lori told me Robert told her that he loved her and then said that he was sorry. Lori told me that she briefly lifted her head up off of his should to look at him and that is when he shot himself.

Lori was also careful to explain that she wrapped the gun in a towel and moved it to the bathroom before the police arrived. The report states that, “she was not sure why she did, except possibly out of habit.” It is unclear if her “habit” was cleaning up after people who have killed themselves, or concealing evidence in general.

The full police report released in early 2019 is available here, as is the 911 call. Trigger warning: white women tears.

Too much information

Now that more is known about Lori’s behavioral traits and the style of her criminality — and now that she no longer has a bar license to protect her — many people have questions about Robert’s death. So far, there is only one good answer.

Trying to make sense of Lori’s story becomes a treadmill shaped like a Möbius strip — there’s no place to get on or off, and if you assume one thing is true, something else becomes impossible. She tried to patch her story up by giving too many details. Liars tend to overexplain things, and often explain the wrong things. In doing so, they provide many clues.

For instance, the hardest thing to swallow in Lori’s story was her elaborate account of her final sexual encounter with Robert, which supposedly took place moments before his death. The details she volunteered served to defend why she was spattered with his blood. That is to say, having sex with Robert was her best explanation, ballistics-wise, for why she was within inches of him (and the gun) when the shot was fired.

It would also explain why police found him completely naked. It would not, however, explain why she had blood splatters on her clothes.

What Lori was most unable to explain (and she was apparently was not asked) was how a 68-year old man with a possibly infected knee replacement — a ferociously painful and dangerous medical condition — could have had sex to begin with, even if he was on the amount of painkiller needed to dull such excruciating pain. And if those painkillers were enough to dull the pain of his knee, what were they doing to his other body parts? Was Robert even awake at the time he killed himself?

Another revealing overshare is that Lori claimed that Robert suffered from erectile disfunction — a personal detail embarrassing even for a dead person, that seemingly added nothing to her narrative except degradation.

But to Lori, it may have actually been a key detail to support her story that they had just had sex, and to explain away the lack of semen on her, his body, or anywhere nearby — a substance that an elementary forensic examination with luminol and a black light would have instantly revealed.

Photos from Robert Deveny’s last safari in South Africa

The gun itself also raises questions. A Taurus is not the cheapest gun available, but certainly not an upscale brand. The .38 that killed Robert is a small, basic revolver intended for ‘entry level self-defense.’ To be plain, it is a women’s purse gun. As Robert was a man expert in firearms, this would not be the kind of gun he would want to kill himself with, or even be seen using.

The fact that Lori handled this gun immediately after the shooting “out of habit” makes it reasonable to believe it was actually her gun. The fact that Lori moved the gun to the bathroom and wrapped it in a towel not only altered the crime scene, but provided an explanation as to why her fingerprints might be found on it, rather than Robert’s.

As an aside, following her indictment on fraud charges, the court allowed Lori to sell her guns — including the Taurus — as long as she kept the receipts of the sales. She also did not have to pay any bail.

‘Red collar criminals’

According to white collar crime expert and attorney Frank S. Perri, that stereotype is inaccurate. “Many white-collar criminals harbor the same deviant personality traits as street-level criminals,” such as the “behavioral traits of narcissism and psychopathy.” Those traits tend to serve them well when their fraud is being detected and someone is poised to expose them.

Mr. Perri coined the term ‘red-collar criminals’ to describe respectable-seeming fraudsters who turn to murder in order to keep their schemes concealed; and refers to their type of murder as ‘fraud-detection homicide.’ The term highlights how dangerous white collar criminals can be when cornered or threatened, and how often the exposure of fraud provides a motive for a murder that would otherwise go undetected. He and co-author Terrance G. Lichtenwald wrote:

[T]he link to each fraud detection was crucial in establishing a motive for murder when the prosecution had weak direct evidence, but supportive circumstantial evidence of guilt. Establishing fraud detection as a motive is es­pecially important when the psychopath will at­tempt to use his or her lack of violent criminal­ity as an advantage when the case against him or her may be entirely circumstantial.

The circumstantial evidence that Lori Deveny killed her husband is not only supported, it’s so classic that it borders on cliché. If the script were submitted to the Lifetime Channel, even they would demand a rewrite.

Mr. Perri recently released an excellent video lecture series on red collar crime, including an episode on victims of red-collar intimate partners, and another on female red-collar offenders. It should come as a surprise to nobody that females commit white collar crimes, have the same behavioral traits as the male offenders, and may also resort to murder when cornered.

Yet the opposite impression persists — and as a white female crying to every authority she could, Lori enjoyed a double dip of presumption that she was incapable of fraud, and incapable of violence. She avoided suspicion even when her stories no longer made any sense.

Interestingly, Mr. Perri points out that female red collar criminals frequently resort to drugging or sedating their victim, before murdering them. If Lori was telling the truth about Robert’s knee infection, he would have been on a massive dose of painkillers.

The fact that Lori was allowed to cremate his body without a tox screen means we will never know if Lori was lying about the infected knee replacement, what kind of painkillers he was on, or if he was simply roofied.

A motive for murder: The estate case of Kathryn Kennedy

We can be certain of several things, including that we should not rely on Lori’s version of events.

There is a case of fraud that has not been written about and that law enforcement does not know about, in which Lori stole the assets of the Deveny’s deceased housekeeper, Kathryn Kennedy. At the time of Robert’s death, Lori could no longer juggle the fraud of Kennedy’s estate. The records there help evidence possible motive and timing.

Kennedy died suddenly of unknown causes in June 2015. According to court documents, within 24 hours of Kennedy’s death, Lori and Robert had taken physical control of her house and changed the locks. They then installed an alarm.

While waiting for Kennedy’s death certificate to clear, the Deveny’s removed 24 banker’s boxes of papers and other valuables from the premises. They cancelled the automatic payments for Kennedy’s phone and mortgage, but did not cancel payments to her life insurance policy.

According to people with knowledge of the situation, Lori said that Kennedy had left her entire estate to the Devenys. Kennedy’s disabled adult son did not learn of his mother’s death for two months. By then, the Devenys had had her cremated, with no funeral, and her life insurance policy had been paid out. There is no record of who cashed the check, but I think we can all guess.

Kennedy’s house soon fell into foreclosure because of the stopped payments, and a court action was commenced by the lender in December 2016. Lori, and anyone else that might have had access to the house (or who was using it for storage) ducked service of court papers through 2017.

When the ethics complaints against her began to come in to the bar, in November 2017, Lori decided it was high time to make her looting of Kennedy’s assets look semi-presentable. She filed an estate case in December.

Interestingly, when Lori filed Kennedy’s will in the case, it turns out to have been written by Lori, who we now know is a habitual forger of victims’ signatures. Lori almost certainly forged Kennedy’s signature. Oddly, the will Lori created states that Kennedy left her estate to various family members, including her son, and left nothing at all to the Devenys.

Lori and the estate attorney she hired for the case filed a false declaration that the witnesses to the will’s signing could not be located to verify its authenticity. I found them by a simple internet search in five minutes. They also claimed they could not locate Kennedy’s son. I found him also, on Facebook, and was talking to him within days.

By the time Lori filed the estate case, though, there was very little left to dispose of. The house was heavily mortgaged and any other property or possessions that Lori had seized were long gone. Much of what was left over at the close of Kennedy’s estate ended up being paid to Lori and Tammi Caress, her attorney, as legal fees and reimbursable case expenses. And the little paid out to Kennedy’s family members Lois Fulgham and Elizabeth Garrett…who knows if serial-forger Lori forged their signatures also?

As for timing, just two weeks before before Robert’s death, Lori was added as a Defendant to Kennedy’s foreclosure case; and just four days before Robert’s death, the Plaintiff in that case filed a declaration. That declaration stated that a process server was trying to serve Kennedy’s son and the other family members — i.e. the same people Lori had vigorously tried to keep from learning about her looting of Kennedy’s assets. That is to say, shit was getting real.

If the shocking record of the estate case does not provide motive enough, I have also learned that Robert had promised to give one of his daughters $75,000 for a house. The money was supposed to be sent the very day he died.

Perhaps most tellingly, upon Robert’s death, Lori frantically used some of the payout of his life insurance policy to pay off the victims who filed the first two bar complaints against her, to stave off disbarment and criminal charges.

It didn’t work. Within six months of Robert’s death, an unprecedented number of claims had been filed with the bar and Lori had resigned her law license. The official total, to date, of Lori’s thefts is around $3.4 million. The true amount remains unknown. It is certainly much higher.

If nothing else, Robert’s death came at the precise moment that Lori lost control of the illusion she cultivated of being a respectable, white lady lawyer — and the very moment she was revealed as a predator in desperate need of money.

Too little, too late

Would Robert Deveny still be alive? Could Kennedy’s assets have been protected?

When the bar finally did move to protect the public, it was nine days after Robert’s death. Lori responded to them two weeks later, asking for sympathy for her “personal health issues and the recent, sudden death” of Robert.

Lori Deveny and Jaques Senekal in Minnesota

That should have been the final straw, considering that Lori was spotted on Facebook just three days earlier, grinning at a dead animal convention in Minnesota, with her arm around Jacques Senekal, the owner of African Maximum Safaris — who is also mentioned in Lori’s federal indictment.

Knowing what we know now, and what Lori knew at the time — that the first two victims she paid off were just a drop in a multi-million-dollar bucket — it’s astonishing that she thought, even for a minute, that she could pay her out way out of trouble, keep her license, avoid any reputational damage, and continue to perpetrate her fraudulent schemes on a new set of victims.

Therefore, no one should be surprised by Lori’s failure to publish an obituary or notice of Robert’s death and didn’t hold a funeral or memorial service for him. She instead had his body cremated at the maximum possible speed.

Raymond Young, one of the state bar’s claims investigators opined the following, unsolicited, in a claim summary for one of Lori’s victims:

I am no psychotherapist, nor have I spoken with Deveny, but Deveny displays many of the traits of a “psychopath.” The [Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders] would generally describe a person with this condition as having “ … interpersonal traits include(ing) glibness, superficial charm, grandiosity, pathological lying and manipulation of others. The affective traits include a lack of remorse and/or guilt, shallow affect, lack of empathy and failure to accept responsibility.” I have reviews dozens of emails and letters between [the victims] and Deveny, it seems Deveny was all of that and more.

It’s too bad that Mr. Young’s assessment has not been taken as seriously as it should be — he is the only person so far that’s gotten it right.

And as with all things Lori Deveny, we have not yet hit the bottom of the barrel: There is more and it is shocking.