A Billings man has been charged with defrauding an elderly couple out of their Harlowton home.
Jesse James Eagle Speaker, 42, appeared Tuesday in Yellowstone County Justice Court by video from the county jail and was charged with theft, exploitation of an older person with a developmental disability and forgery, all felonies.
Each offense carries a maximum fine of up to $50,000 and 10 to 20 years in prison.
Judge Larry D. Herman set Eagle Speaker’s bond at $20,000.
According to court documents, Eagle Speaker is accused taking ownership of a house and real property with an asking price of $85,000 in Harlowton by deceiving the owners, a 69-year-old woman and her 71-year-old common-law husband.
In January 2010, the couple had listed their residence for sale with Billings real estate agent Donna Bliss.
Documents state that Eagle Speaker persuaded the 69-year-old woman to sign a real estate transfer document she didn’t understand and then transferred ownership of the property to himself. He did so, in part, by executing a warranty deed bearing the victim’s forged signature.
The woman told a detective that she has an eighth-grade education and can read “a little bit, but not much,” documents state. She told the detective she is only able to sign her name.
The victims are unemployed and receive monthly Social Security disability checks, she said. They needed to sell their home and move to Billings to be closer to hospitals, she said. The couple resides in Lockwood.
According to the woman, Eagle Speaker agreed to pay the asking price with $50,000 down and the remaining $35,000 once he resold the residence.
Eagle Speaker contacted Bliss and told her he was looking for cheap property to “flip” in the Billings area, Bliss said.
Bliss told detectives that in November 2010 she learned Eagle Speaker had sold the property for about $45,000 to Ricky Lee Seder, a real estate agent in Hardin. She said she did not receive notice from the victim or Eagle Speaker that the property had sold, and she didn’t receive a commission for the sale.
Eagle Speaker said during an interview with a detective that he learned of the sale from a morning radio show called Tradio. He claims the victim was asking $43,000 for the property and that he paid her $35,000 cash on Nov. 17, 2010.