Tales From Real Estate's Dark Side
Most real estate agents are really nice people. And choosing one that can get the job done is not that hard. But just like dating or marriage, sometimes you just don't know what you've gotten into until, well, until the relationship goes sour -- or worse.
Two Pasco County, Florida, real estate agents were found dead last week after one shot the other, and then turned the gun on herself, reported WTSP news in Hudson, Florida. Deputies say broker Rhonda Patterson killed fellow realtor Robert Clark, who was also her live-in boyfriend. The two were found in the bedroom of their house, which is also listed as her business, Waterfront and Preferred Homes Realtors, in Hudson.
In Ottawa, this spring, another real estate agent accused of attempted murder allegedly took a baseball bat to his wive's head after telling her to close her eyes and await a surprise. Neighbors saw him standing over her, bat-in-hand, as she lay in the driveway, reported the Ottawa Citizen. Luckily, she lived.
Granted, these incidents were domestic, and there's no reason to think that agents are more prone to violence or crime than any other segment of the population. But they are a reminder to safeguard yourself when you view homes for sale, and to have a friend or family member tag along with you and the agent. (The same cautions should, of course, apply to agents, who in recent years have increasingly found themselves the targets of violent attacks.)
And when you list your house on the market, security cameras can come in quite handy when needed to catch a thief, or agents doing bad inside your home.
Here's a look at some cases in which real estate agents made or are alleged to have made their clients their victims.
HE MADE HIS SALES AT THE PAWNSHOP: Ray Glen Greene, a 49-year-old used his agent key codes to enter homes for sale in metro Atlanta and rather than just admire hardwood floors or marble baths, he stole jewelry and other items.
In June he pleaded guilty to eight counts of burglary and eight counts of theft by taking, the District Attorney's office there told the Atlanta Journal Constitution. For that he must serve at least eight years in prison.
Greene told the court that he did not sell a single home in more than a year and supported himself by pawning the stolen jewelry, including a wedding ring he stole from the home of a Cobb County police captain, whose wife had passed away. The pawn shop returned the ring to the captain and the jig was up for Greene.
In addition to the prison time, Greene had to surrender his real estate license and he is barred from working in the industry. He also is not allowed to enter any house in which the homeowner is not present. Greene also was ordered to pay restitution of just over $29,000, according to the AJC.
BRIEFLESS ENCOUNTERS: One set of New Jersey homeowners reportedly caught their real estate agent having romantic encounters in their home for sale on more than 10 occasions. The evidence: The home's security video footage.
The liaisons between two now-former Coldwell Banker agents, Robert Lindsay and Jeannemarie Phelan, ended at the property when homeowner Sandra Weiner called police after viewing a remote security camera program and saw nude people in her home.
The security cameras allegedly captured the agents hugging and kissing in the kitchen before undressing and having sex on the Weiners' bed. The homeowners sued Lindsay, claiming that he had listed their house at so high a price -- in order to continue the trysts -- that buyers wouldn't be interested in it. The suit says that the video shows the pair allegedly hooking up many more times until they were caught by police in January 2012.
The police reportedly opened the door to the house and found Lindsay pulling up his pants.
Lindsay and Phelan have since countersued the Weiners, claiming that the homeowners attempted to extort $1 million from them to prevent release of the video.
Philadelphia real estate agent Joseph N. Reilly accused of stealing more than $1 million in rent, tax and bill payments that were supposed to be passed along to the clients of his property management company, pleaded guilty in May, 2014 of pocketing hundreds of thousands in rent intended for owners whose properties he managed, reported the Phildelphia Inquirer.
Reilly allegedly altered statements to make it appear as though Reilly Real Estate had sent rent and bill payments on to property owners and utilities companies. Prosecutors said Reilly actually pocketed the money, stealing an estimated $1,048,639 in payments from 50 clients.
One suit filed against him in June 2010 claims Reilly rented out a property for nine months without the owner's permission. Reilly then failed to turn over more than $18,200 in rental and water bill payments he collected from tenants, the Inquirer says the suit states.
Because Reilly allegedly mailed false statements to clients, the issue became a mail fraud case. He faces a maximum possible penalty of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, three years of supervised release and a $100 special assessment.
But other than that, Philadelphia, home of the Liberty Bell, is actually a great place to visit or stick around to buy a home.
BOTTOM DRAWERS: Watch your lingerie drawer! Virginia Realtor Stephen Brumme was arrested after hidden camera video caught him rifling through the dresser drawer and closet of one homeowner, and apparently seems to stuff a lady's garment into his pocket.
Brumme entered the house legally and signed in as a real estate agent, in advance of a client showing up to tour the home, according to Arlington Now news site.
Arlington County Police, who charged him with burglary, suspect that the casual behavior of Brumme in the video suggests that there might be other victims.
MISSING MEDS: In another tragic case out of Florida, a Daytona Beach police sergeant's wife who worked as a real estate agent was charged with stealing prescription medication from clients. She subsequently shot and killed herself. Jessica Lynn Morford, 32, was found dead behind her home on in April 2013, reported Florida TV station WESH.
Clients of hers in Port Orange told police that for the previous 12 months, they'd seen prescription medications and money disappear from their home, during the same period when Morford had been showing the property for them. The suspicious homeowners set up a tiny video camera, hidden in a plant in the master bedroom. Morford allegedly took 17 of the 43 pills in the jar that day.
Go to Twitter and share your best and worst tales of real estate agents with @shereecurry. Have too many agents gone over to the #REdarkside?