An elderly woman from the Tampa Bay area said she lost her family property after a neighbor convinced her to sign a blank piece of paper that eventually helped him gain control of the land.
At the center of the dispute is a home that sits on more than three acres of land in Hillsborough County, which includes Tampa, and is estimated to be worth over $260,000, according to the real estate site Zillow. Susan Eatman, 80, claimed in a May lawsuit that Mark Oliver, a neighbor who operates a farm next to the family property, had her sign a blank paper, and that signature ended up on a quitclaim deed giving him ownership of the land.
Before Eatman left her home for a friend’s birthday party in April, Oliver showed up at her door asking her to sign “a plain piece of paper,” she told Fox News. “I’d never seen him before, but he told me he was a neighbor to my sister, Jackie.”
Oliver had already convinced Jackie White — Eatman’s sister who lives at the disputed address — to give him permission to put “his animals on her property,” Eatman said. She noted that the neighbor owns a farm and needed both her and White as co-owners to sign-off on the project.
“The property has been my parents’ property for many years, and it is left for Jackie to live there as long as she lives because she’s not very competent to see after herself,” Eatman said.
After Eatman initially declined to sign Oliver’s paper, he arrived at the Cracker Barrel restaurant where she was attending a birthday celebration. Oliver confronted the 80-year-old again, this time with a woman who claimed to be his banker, Gaeby Doherty, Eatman told Fox News.
At the restaurant, Oliver “went on to just be loud and obnoxious and wanted me to sign the paper,” she said. “And I kept saying, I don’t even know you. I’m not going to sign anything.”
Despite her asking him to leave the restaurant, Eatman eventually relented.
“There was nothing to do,” she told Fox News. “I put my name on this … blank piece of paper.”
Oliver later told authorities he had been helping care for White, gave her a check worth $10,000, provided her food and clothes and performed work on her property, according to a Hillsborough County Sheriff’s report obtained by Fox News. It also noted that Doherty was present when Oliver had White, like Eatman, sign a paper, which the 70-year-old told police was blank.
Neither Oliver nor Doherty responded to a request for comment, nor did Cheyenne Whitfield and Bryant Camareno, Oliver’s lawyers.
“The deed is not fraudulent and was not signed under fraudulent terms,” Oliver said in his response to Eatman’s lawsuit, according to WFLA, a Tampa news outlet.
But Eatman told Fox News she had not received any compensation from Oliver and that she never asked him to help with her sister.
“You don’t need to take care of Jackie,” Eatman said she told Oliver, adding “I have been taking care of her for a long time.”
Additionally, surveillance video from the Hillsborough County clerk’s office shows Oliver filing the quitclaim paperwork needed to put his name on the deed, according to Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office investigators.
The investigation into the incident has been turned over to the Hillsborough County State Attorney’s Office, Jessica Lang, a media relations manager for the sheriff’s department told Fox News in an email.
Erin Maloney, communications director for the state attorney’s office, told Fox News in an email the case is under investigation and that no charges have been filed.
“There was a detective that investigated and talked to everybody and said that it was fraudulent,” Eatman told Fox News.
“We’ll do whatever we have to do to get it back,” the 80-year-old added. “My parents paid for that property, and they wanted it to be Jackie’s.”