A 64-year-old congenitally retarded adult who sold his house to a relative of his next-door neighbor for $10 is back home, thanks to his lawyer and guardian.
Anthony Oliva, who according to medical reports has the mind of a child and can’t understand complex financial matters, was forced out of his home at 929 Pierce Avenue after selling it to Antonella Caputi-Agostino, the daughter of his neighbor, Lena Fava.
Oliva sold the house under duress for $10 on August 22, 2006, according to court documents. The sale occurred six months after the death of his only close relative, his aunt Carmela Franchese, with whom he lived.
Oliva sold the house with the understanding that he could live there rent-free for the rest of his life. However, according to his pro-bono lawyer Sal Conforto, he was forced out just five months later, after Caputi-Agostino and her husband Domenic Agostino began demanding utility payments. The Agostinos live nearby at 2408 Westervelt Avenue.
“Caputi-Agostino convinced Anthony that since he had no living relatives, it would be better to turn over the house to her,” Conforto, who was appointed legal guardian for Olivia to reclaim the house, said. “They collected three months of heating bills, and then said ‘pack your stuff, we want you out of here.’ As soon as they realized that Anthony had gotten a lawyer involved, they cornered him and threatened to kill him.”
Conforto went to the Bronx district attorney’s office and both Antonella and Domenic Agostino were charged with and eventually pled guilty to aggravated harassment, a Class-A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail.
According to Conforto, the aggravated harassment charge was just the start. He worked to have the Bronx district attorney’s office bring charges of felony grand larceny. He also simultaneously filed a civil case to recoup the house and all of the revenues collected in rent since Caputi-Agostino’s purchase.
Caputi-Agostino, facing two possible trials, agreed to a deal that would allow Oliva to return to his house. In exchange, Conforto has dropped charges against Caputi-Agostino. The house is back in Oliva’s name and Conforto will remain his guardian for the rest of his life, managing his financial affairs. Conforto has declined to accept any fees for the case.
“For me, it was tremendously gratifying to do what I did,” Conforto said. “Thanks to the efforts of many people in the community, Anthony is back in the house that he rightfully owns.”