Pair accused of false pretenses for deed transfer
MANCHESTER — A Manchester woman lost her home after relatives persuaded her to let them "borrow" its deed and never returned it, according to recently filed court papers.
The woman, Rose Dorr, 62, was eventually evicted from the Dufresne Pond Road home and now lives "in a very small trailer" on property she does not own, "a downgrade from where she was living before," she told police.
David and Danielle Niles, Dorr's son-in-law and daughter, are facing criminal charges. Last week, after an investigation by Manchester Police, the Bennington County State's Attorney's Office charged the husband and wife with felony "false pretenses" in the alleged scheme. The charge carries a maximum penalty of a decade in prison and a fine of $2,000.
David and Danielle Niles each pleaded not guilty and were released on their own recognizance. Their respective attorneys did not return requests for comment.
The prosecutor handling both cases, Kirsten Morgan, declined to discuss specifics of the case.
David Niles, 46, borrowed $80,000 against the home and put the money toward debts and a house in Bennington, according to bank records described by police and what his wife, Danielle Niles, 41, later told law enforcement.
The couple made the request of Dorr in August 2017, according to an affidavit by Manchester Police Detective Abigail Zimmer filed in court. Dorr voiced concerns about "becoming homeless," Zimmer wrote, but the couple "assured her that they wouldn't do that to her." Dorr signed a quitclaim deed that same month.
Sometime after executing the deed, Dorr nevertheless filed a "homeowners declaration" — later rejected by the state — affirming that she owned and occupied the Manchester property. David Niles "read me the riot act" about this filing, Dorr told police, and said their deal was "off."
About one year later, still having not returned the deed, David Niles evicted Dorr, the affidavit says. The house, located at 434 Dufresne Pond Road, "is now being rented out to a family," Dorr told police.
Dorr told police that her initial decision to participate in the arrangement was influenced by her daughter telling her, in the spring of 2017, "that she was terminally ill with a rare cancer," a claim she now doubts, according to court papers.
Before she signed the deed, David Niles "had suggested" paying Dorr $10,000 plus the cost of homeowners insurance and property taxes for one year, but "this never ended up happening," according to the affidavit, though the couple "occasionally" gave her about $400 to $600 to purchase tobacco products for them when she was headed to New Hampshire. The couple "sometimes would throw a little extra in for gas, and they gave her cash to take her granddaughter Christmas shopping for them," Zimmer wrote.
David Niles obtained the $80,000 bank loan, secured by the Manchester property, in October 2017, the affidavit says. Niles allegedly told the bank that the house was or would be his primary residence, though it is unclear from the affidavit when, if ever, he lived there. Citing subpoenaed bank records, the affidavit says the loan was to go toward a preexistent loan for a tractor, collections, home improvements and landscaping.
Shortly thereafter, using the loan funds, Niles paid fees related to the loan and settled all of his collections, according to the affidavit. Near the end of October, he deposited the remainder of the funds — a little more than $57,000 — in his bank account, which at the time of the deposit contained only $26.90. By the end of the next month, his account contained $37.72.
In January 2018, David and Danielle Niles purchased 155 Burgess Road in Bennington for $25,000, town records indicate.
Following the couple's arrest on July 23, David Niles did not speak with police, according to court papers.
Danielle Niles waived her Miranda rights and spoke to police, the affidavit says. She claimed that Dorr, in financial straits, approached the couple about buying the Manchester house for $10,000 and allowing her to continue to occupy it. Niles denied that the couple intended merely to "borrow the deed to get a loan," according to the affidavit.
"Everything was ok," she told police, until her mother signed the homestead declaration, which prompted David to "[take] the defensive because he was afraid of going to jail."
Niles also told police that she has bile duct cancer but her doctor had "put it down as bile duct obstruction."
The couple is due back in Vermont Superior Court, Bennington Criminal Division for a status conference on Sept. 23.
"False pretenses" cases, which require courts to consider whether defendants acted "with intent to defraud," are "not very common but not uncommon either," said Jared Carter, a professor at Vermont Law School.
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