*Fort Pierce, Florida (WPBF) — A Fort Pierce senior unknowingly signed over his home, and is now getting evicted. Selling a home in Florida isn’t always a complicated affair. You can actually transfer ownership just by signing a special deed and having it notarized.
People usually do this in cases of divorce, or when giving a home to their relatives. But the same process is also an easy way for a vulnerable person to unknowingly sign away their home.
That’s what Claude Frye, 66, said happened to him, according to court records. This week, Frye is selling his mother’s trinkets in his driveway, hoping to make a little cash.
After 23 years of living in this house, Frye is being evicted. Because somehow, Frye signed over the deed to his house for a mere $10 — a house that just sold to a third buyer for $185,000.
“Like I said, everybody has been taking advantage of me. Because I’m kind of a nice guy, you know,” said Frye.
Neighbor Vince Errico said when he found out Frye was being evicted, he looked up the property records
“There’s definitely something wrong there. And he gets nothing. I think he got $1,500,” said Errico.
In 2020 Frye’s mom died, and he says he got behind on the mortgage.
“I wouldn’t have gotten behind so bad if it wasn’t for my mom dying. It was just me here alone. And I took it really hard,” said Frye.
The bank foreclosed, and Frye asked a man he knew for help.
He said in 2021 Thomas Brinson promised to take over the mortgage payments. So Frye signed a deed, transferring the property to Brinson for $10.
And Brinson would let Frye live in his house But later, court filings would say that Frye didn’t realize what he was signing.
“Once I signed the paper and I didn’t realize that that gave him the right to sell it and evict me,” said Frye.
Brinson said the house and Frye were a headache. Too much stress and money. So six months later Brinson signed the house over to Carlton Darville, a real estate investor.
Darville won’t say how much he paid Brinson – a recorded deed shows a payment of $10 and “other good and valuable consideration.”
Then, in December 2022, Darville flipped the house, selling it for $185,000 to a New York based LLC, according to county records.
When Frye hadn’t vacated by Jan. 25, the new owner filed for eviction. Frye’s neighbor, Errico, responded to the eviction complaint on Frey’s behalf.
He wrote to the Court that “Frye is a mentally disabled senior citizen” who had been “coerced into quit claiming his home.”
Adding that Frye “was lied to about the paperwork for the deed transfer and really had no idea he was signing away his home.”
Errico’s court filing does not specify the persons responsible for this alleged “coercion” and “lying.”
“He could have at least put the house up for sale, priced it cheap, and at least got something. Now he’s got nothing.” said Errico.
The man who purchased the home from Brinson and made a big profit on Frye’s house — Carlton Darville — says he did nothing wrong.
“It might seem a little murky, but that’s the nature of our business,” said Darville.
Darville said if he hadn’t come along the bank would have foreclosed on Brinson and evicted Frye, anyway.
After purchasing the property from Brinson, Darville gave Frye $1,500 on January 1 to turn over the keys, with another $1,500 if Frye vacated the house by Jan. 18, which Frye did not do.
“But ethically, are you doing the right thing?” WPBF 25 News Investigative Reporter Terri Parker asked.
“Ethically, I’m 100 percent clear because, again, I never coerced Mr. Frye. I never swindled him. Never forced him. He wasn’t incoherent when he signed a deed over to whoever,” said Darville.
Last month, the court ordered that Frye’s eviction may move forward, finding there was no evidence of wrongdoing.
Darville says Frye should have consulted a lawyer.
“But the crucial mistake, the unwise bad decision that Claude made in 2021, he signed it away,” said Darville.
And now Frye has some advice.
“Don’t sign anything until you’re sure or have a lawyer look into it. I didn’t have a lawyer. He did, though,” said Frye.
In his court filing, Errico wrote to the judge that “the case is currently under investigation.”
When asked about this, the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office provided us with a redacted police report regarding a possible fraud case, but said since it’s ongoing, they can’t comment.
No charges have been filed.
Sheriff Ken Mascara said the best way to protect yourself is to sign up for the Property Fraud Alert Service in St. Lucie County, which notifies you whenever a document is filed in your name.
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