Pair accused of exerting undue influence

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VAY — A Bonner County couple is being sued for allegedly exerting undue influence on an elderly and infirm couple to acquire their Hoodoo Valley dairy farm at a sharply reduced price.

Counsel for Family Fiduciary Services and the court-appointed conservator for Vern and Lura Hollett allege that Gary Allen Hollett — the couple’s son — and Niki Clements Hollett are accused of recording a series of documents that conveyed two pieces of real property and other valuable assets to them in exchange for $220,000, according to a civil complaint filed in 1st District Court on Monday.

Family Fiduciary’s counsel, Sandpoint attorney Brent Featherston, argues in the complaint that the sum is grossly below fair market value and includes personal property and other valuable assets.

The suit alleges that Niki Hollett recorded a handwritten deeds in 2015 which purports to have the signatures of Vern and Lura Hollett. A handwritten loan term sheet was also memorialized at the Bonner County Recorder’s Office.

The term sheet indicated that Gary and Niki Clements made a $5,000 down payment and agreed to monthly payments of $200 a month. The term sheet notes two pieces of property on Horn Mountain Road.

Vern and Lura Hollett originally owned a 200-acre dairy farm, although they currently own a portion of the tract. Dairy operations ceased in the 1990s, when Lura Hollett was diagnosed with cancer.

Health problems, including cognitive declines, have been plaguing Vern and Lura Hollett for the last several years, prompting the creation of a conservatorship to attend to the couple’s affairs. They were later relocated to an assisted living facility after a court-appointed monitor reported allegations of neglect and abuse had been raised, according to court documents.

If the senior Holletts in fact executed the recorded documents, it was done without requisite knowledge or capacity and/or the result of undue influence, the complaint alleges.

“Specifically, the acts and conduct of the defendants constitute a method, act or practice which is unconscionable because defendants knowingly, or with reason to know, took advantage of Vern Hollett and Lura Hollett at a time when they were unable to protect their own interests...” Featherston wrote.

The civil action seeks to nullify the recorded documents and triple damages for undue influence and violations of the Idaho Consumer Protection Act. It demands a full accounting of the defendants’ finances dating back to 2014.

Keith Kinnaird can be reached by email at kinnaird@bonnercountydailybee.com and follow him on Twitter @KeithDailyBee.

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