Sticky Fingered Agent
"In Sonoma County's competitive housing market, homeowners not only have to deal with the stress of selling their homes, they also have to worry about someone stealing their stuff."
"While real estate agents have always warned sellers to lock away valuables from potential sticky-fingered buyers, one recent incident highlights a danger from the other side - the agent herself."
"Lori Bye, a north Sonoma County real estate sales agent, is scheduled to be sentenced Tuesday after admitting to burglarizing a Windsor house she was supposed to be showing."
"The homeowners told Sonoma County sheriff's detectives that Bye asked them to vacate for a short time while she showed the house to a potential buyer. The owners said they sat in a car a few doors down and saw Bye arrive alone and leave alone after a brief stay."
"Bye, 41, was arrested in March when the homeowners reported 10 bottles of prescription drugs were missing after she was seen leaving."
"Most crimes involving real estate agents are actually targeted at the agent, said Julie Hunter, who owns Hunter Prestige Properties."In 17 years of business in this county, I've never even had a smidgen of an incident like this," she said."
"More common, she said, are violent attacks on agents.In June, a violent assault on a Napa real estate agent who thought she was meeting a potential buyer at a vacant house prompted a regionwide safety warning from the North Bay Association of Realtors."
"Law enforcement agents say such crimes - whether by agents or by would-be buyers - may be underreported because homeowners might not notice the missing property quickly."
"The Bye case is reminiscent of the 1980s case of the "lockbox burglar," who was sentenced to six years in prison after being convicted of 10 counts of burglary and nine counts of theft.The burglar and an accomplice, both licensed real estate agents, were believed to have used passkeys on lockboxes installed on homes listed for sale."
"Both had their real estate licenses revoked, which is likely what will occur in the Bye case, state Department of Real Estate spokesman Tom Pool said. Bye, who also worked under the name Lori Monette, had been let go from at least two other real estate companies after questions arose about missing medications at homes she'd visited, according to court documents."
"The state regulatory agency fingerprints agents as part of the licensing process and receives information from law enforcement agencies and the courts when an agent is arrested and convicted.Last year, the agency revoked 439 licenses, out of about 500,000 agents statewide, according to department statistics."
"Having a "substantially related criminal conviction" is among the most common reasons for revocation, he said.Of 12 revocations in the past quarter in the department's Oakland region, which includes Sonoma County, 11 were for such convictions."