A former Hermon woman whose home was seized for back taxes while she was in prison has reached an agreement with town councilors that’s allowed her to regain her property and sell it.
The agreement settles the lawsuit she filed against the town last year.
The agreement called for Erica Oliveira to sell the Fuller Road property rather than live in it herself because of her previous drug trafficking from the home.
The town returned the 1.25-acre lot and mobile home to Oliveira this spring, and she sold it in August, according to her attorney, William Palmer of Bangor.
She had purchased the property in 2011 with money she received from a $52,000 car accident settlement.
She developed her substance use disorder following treatment for pain from that accident, Palmer said. It was that substance use disorder that led to her incarceration, he said.
Oliveira did not respond to a request for comment.
Councilors initially refused to negotiate with Oliveira after she agreed to pay her delinquent taxes for 2015 through 2018 because of concerns about drug activity there. The town had returned forfeited properties to other residents once they had paid back taxes, according to Palmer.
When the council took steps in 2019 to demolish the woman’s trailer, Palmer sued the town in Penobscot County Superior Court alleging that Hermon was treating Oliveira differently than it had treated others who paid back taxes and regained their property.
“I think they got to know her and her situation a little bit and that won them over,” Palmer said about why councilors changed their minds.
Council Chair Steven Thomas said the council agreed to let her sell the property and retain the profits after she had covered the town’s legal costs and back taxes out of the proceeds. She was not allowed to live there again under the deal.
“Ms. Oliveira’s legal suit did not appear to have any direction or merit,” Thomas said. “The council felt this outcome was in the best interest of the town and fair for Ms. Oliveira.”
Hermon’s attorney, Edmond Bearor of Bangor, said the council sought to balance Oliveira’s needs with the needs of the community.
“The council balanced its desire to assist Erica in her recovery and its desire and obligation to do its best to assure that future occupants of this property would not bring back the serious criminal activity endured by the neighbors while Erica owned the property,” he said.
Oliveira sold the home and land for $66,300, about $400 less than the town’s assessed value for the property in 2017. The back taxes totaled $3,500. After paying legal fees to her attorney and the town’s attorney as well as paying the realtor and other fees, Oliveira netted nearly $46,000 from the sale.
The property was her only asset, according to Palmer.
A federal grand jury indicted Oliveira and six others on Aug. 18, 2018, on drug conspiracy and other charges. She was arrested five day later and agreed to be held without bail while awaiting trial.
In October of that year, she pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute heroin, fentanyl and crack cocaine. She pleaded guilty in exchange for the dismissal of one count of maintaining a drug-involved place.
On May 28, 2019, U.S. District Judge John Woodcock sentenced Oliveira to two years in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release. The time she was incarcerated while awaiting the resolution of her case, about nine months, was applied to her sentence.
She was released from the custody of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons on March 27, 2020, after spending time at a halfway house in Portland and time in home confinement.