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Fort Worth woman sentenced on fake cop charge, used false name to get executive job

·5 min read

A Fort Worth woman who was recently sentenced to probation for impersonating a police officer at a playground used a different name when she was hired earlier this year at a Fort Worth retirement community, according to community officials and residents.

Samantha Louise Eley, 40, was hired in March as executive director at Watermark at Broadway Cityview in Fort Worth, which is a community of over 300 people.

In a case that grabbed national attention, Eley was arrested in October 2019 after she was caught on video cursing at teens at a Fort Worth playground while falsely claiming to be a police officer, according to an arrest warrant.

She was released from jail with certain bond restrictions.

On Tuesday, Eley was sentenced to five years of probation on the impersonating charge.

Earlier this year as she awaited her trial, Eley applied for the executive director position at Watermark, under the name Madison Avery, and continued at that post until May. She also hired her father as maintenance director of the retirement community.

Weeks after she was hired, Watermark officials became aware that their executive director might not have the identity she claimed.

“Watermark immediately placed the employee on administrative leave to complete an investigation,” said Vicki Doyle with Watermark Retirement Communities, which operates The Watermark at Broadway Cityview, in an email to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “An outside investigation determined her identity was fraudulent and she was terminated from employment.”

Doyle said an audit was performed on her credentials and referral sources before Eley was hired.

“All provided no indication of concern,” Doyle said. “Further investigation showed that a maintenance person hired by the executive director might have been a relative and this employee is no longer employed at Watermark.”

Doyle said Watermark has performed an extensive review of all community executive directors and further enhanced its hiring process.

“No issues were found at other Watermark communities,” Doyle said. “Watermark’s priority is the safety and wellbeing of its residents.”

John Brender of Fort Worth, Eley’s attorney, said Eley was looking to the future.

“I cannot comment on the name change situation,” Brender said in an email. “As to the criminal charge, I will say that Ms. Eley looks forward to completing probation successfully and getting this situation behind her.”

Former Watermark residents Donna Kay Barnes and her husband, Colen Gardner, said they were evicted by Eley and Watermark a few weeks ago.

“Our first thought was that, given 60 plus years in law enforcement, we could not believe the irony that we were being evicted by a convicted felon working under an alias,” the couple told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “Our consternation continued to grow when, after Watermark discovered her felonious background and use of an alias, the CEO offered no resolution to our situation except, ‘We wish you well in your new residence’.”

The couple were evicted because they possessed weapons in their home. When they first moved to the community more than nine years ago, when it was owned by a different company, the couple signed an addendum allowing them to keep firearms in their home.

Watermark took over as owners of the community in 2020, but the couple said they were never notified that no weapons would be allowed in homes.

Eley sent the couple an email earlier this year, telling them they had to get rid of their weapons or “the police would be called to come and confiscate them.”

“We knew we had to move,” Barnes said.

The couple believes they were picked out to be evicted because they were in law enforcement.

“We now realize that any time you go into a senior living facility, you are at the mercy of the management, which change at the drop of a hat,” the couple said.

From 2013 to 2018, Eley was arrested three times for driving while intoxicated, of which she was convicted, and once for assault, which was later dismissed, according to Tarrant County criminal court records.

The impersonating a police officer charge came in 2019.

Fort Worth police responded to the scene shortly after 3:30 p.m. Oct. 16, 2019, at Dream Park, inside Trinity Park, 2001 University Drive.

A man who witnessed the incident told officers the woman had left the area when he told her that he was calling police.

Before police arrived, the witness told officers the woman was screaming and cursing at children, according to a police report.

The video posted on Twitter showed a teenager on playground equipment with a group of other young girls at the park. The video has been viewed more than 5 million times.

Eley walked up to a teen who was on a swing set, telling her to “stop now” because the playground was for children and they were not kids, according to the warrant and video.

Eley “slams her hands down on the swing one of the girls was using,” the warrant says.

The video shows she began to argue with the girls, and screamed, “I’m a f------ PD!” She then threatened to arrest the girls, the warrant says.

The woman continued to yell at the teens, saying they should read the signs and they were not “f------” children.

At the end of the video, Eley again yells, “Go now! Get out of here!”

Eley was released on bond after her October 2019 arrest, but she’s been arrested three times on bond violations since that time.

Her bond violations have included missing more than 50 alcohol monitoring tests in early 2020, according to court records.

She was taken into custody in early June after Tarrant County officials learned that she was arrested May 28 in Ellis County on a charge of driving while intoxicated third offense or more and she was arrested while using the name Madison Rose Avery.

Eley was released from the Tarrant County Jail this week after she was sentenced to probation.

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